U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado picked up a science award from the American Geophysical Union this week, and environmentalists are gobsmacked.
The Colorado Republican received the award with Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan for their work on bipartisan legislation to advance science policy.
“Sens. Gary Peters and Cory Gardner were selected for their bipartisan efforts to pass the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017,” the AGU explained in a statement. “The legislation strengthens our nation’s STEM education pipeline, increases the number of women and underrepresented minorities within STEM fields, and sets robust authorization levels for the National Science Foundation, while avoiding congressional interference in the allocation to NSF’s directorates, including Geosciences.
"During such politically contentious times as these, when progress is dead-locked by deep divisions, the bipartisan approach taken to pass this important legislation is notable.”
AGU is an international nonprofit that claims 60,000 scientists in 137 countries who work on an array of issues, including climate change.
Gardner's office said he has "fought for legislation reducing emissions through clean energy policies and technologies."
Critics on the left, however, called Gardner a climate-change denier.
Mark K. Matthews of the environment news website E&E News reported Thursday that some members of the AGU circulated a letter critical of honoring Gardner, citing his vote against a 2015 resolution that said human activity contributed significantly to climate change.
The vote was heavily politicized by Democrats and carried no legal weight, reports at the time indicated.
"Americans deserve leaders who recognize the value of science as a critical ingredient to our nation's health and prosperity, and there are many such leaders — Republicans and Democrats alike — who deserve the honor of an AGU Presidential Citation," the letter states, according to E&E News. "Senator Gardner is not one of them."
Matthews reported that Gardner has a 10 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, a left-leaning organization that has been critical of Gardner in the past. He is up for re-election in 2020.
"We share the serious concerns expressed by more than 200 scientists and AGU members about the decision to give this award to Sen. Gardner," said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado, the state's largest environmental organization, told Colorado Politics.
"Sen. Gardner has repeatedly refused to accept the scientific consensus around the causes of climate change and has voted against solutions the climate crisis. As the West burns, our state's rivers warm, and our national parks suffer due to climate change, Senator Gardner should take action to solve one of the greatest crises of our time and thereby merit this award."
Gardner's office said his position on climate change is clear, pointing Colorado Politics to a 2014 story from Politico.
“There is no doubt that pollution contributes to the climate changing around us,” Gardner, then a U.S. House member, said in a debate against incumbent Sen. Mark Udall on the subject.
Last year Gardner received the Distinguished Service Award from the Consortium of Social Science Associations, which said congratulated the Coloradan for working with Democrats on "prioritizing research funding even in times of significant budget challenges."
In a statement Thursday, Gardner said, "Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance important science-related policy initiatives, including landmark legislation with Sen. Peters – The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act.
"Solutions for our most serious issues, such as climate change, will require bipartisan action and resolve, and I look forward to continuing to work with the American Geophysical Union to tackle and promote research on issues like climate change, natural hazards, and space.”
Past winners of the AGU award, which began in 2012, include prominent scientists and journalists, as well as Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland as well as Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Gardner's office said he has led legislation to reduce energy consumption, as well as continuing contracts that have reduced federal government's power bill by more than $12 billion over the last 20 years.
Last month he and Democratic. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado announced the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and the University of Colorado Boulder would share $4.5 million in grants to advance "high-potential, high-impact" energy technology.
And last year Gardner sent a letter signed by five other Republicans to President Trump urging him support government energy research.