Environment

Governor Matt Bevin threw shade at 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg and continued to cast doubt on the science behind man-made climate change during a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board on Tuesday.

Bevin’s comments came during a meeting of an interstate compact of officials from 16 southern states focused on energy and environment policies at Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel. According to a video posted by WHAS reporter Chris Williams, Bevin said Thunberg’s climate activism is based on a lack of perspective.

“She’s articulate, she’s an intelligent woman, young woman, she’s very emotional, she’s very passionate and she’s remarkably ill-informed,” Bevin said in response to a question from InsideClimate News Reporter James Bruggers.

Thunberg is an environmental activist from Sweden who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean last month to raise awareness about climate change. On Monday, Thunberg addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” Thunberg said. “How dare you.”

Thunberg’s comments are based on science outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — informed by hundreds of scientists from 40 countries around the world.

Last year’s U.N. Special Report on Global Warming warns the planet has only a limited amount of time to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. The U.S. government has made similarly dire warnings both in its Fourth National Climate Assessment and in a U.S. Department of Defense report warning that climate change is a national security issue.

In Kentucky, climate change brings warming temperatures ushering cascading impacts on health, infrastructure and the environment. The commonwealth can expect more frequent and intense flooding, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events as a result.

This isn’t the first time Bevin has doubted climate science. He has previously alluded to the idea that climate change is a hoax and that renewable energy is not a viable way to power the world.

Bevin again touched on that point during an opening segment of the Southern States Energy Board.

This “green renewable world can’t deliver on what we need,” Bevin said according to Bruggers. “What we grew up with as weather is now climate change, and a cause for alarm,” Bevin added.

Climate is the typical weather that occurs in a place, including average rainfall and wind. Weather is atmospheric activity at a given time, such as a cloudy or a sunny day.

In response to Bevin’s comments, Louisville Climate Action Network Executive Director Sarah Lynn Cunningham pulled out a children’s dictionary and read the entries for both climate and weather.

“A fifth grader can make the distinction, why can’t my governor?” Cunningham said.

Bevin is up for reelection in November; his opponent, Democrat Andy Beshear told WFPL earlier this year that Kentucky needs to diversify its energy portfolio with “as many renewables as possible.”

Beshear also said any energy transition needs to be managed in a way that creates economic opportunities and protects impoverished families.

In response to Bevin’s comments Tuesday, he said in an emailed statement: “Climate change is real. Instead of bullying people and making erratic claims, I’ll focus on an all-of-the-above approach to energy that lifts up working families, saves Kentuckians money and creates good-paying jobs.”

Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Reporter Ryland Barton contributed to this story.

This post has been updated. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.