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Republican Nancy Mace is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., for his House seat in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. (AP) Republican Nancy Mace is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., for his House seat in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. (AP)

Republican Nancy Mace is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., for his House seat in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 19, 2020

SC House candidate Nancy Mace hedges, but doesn’t outright confirm climate change

If Your Time is short

Nancy Mace, the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, does not rule out man-made impacts, but she does not embrace climate change.

The re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., created a website for attacking his opponent, Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace.

"Nancy Mace denies climate change" is one of Cunningham’s claims on MaceFacts.com.

In statements made since September, Mace has not always ruled out the impact of human beings, but she has consistently resisted an embrace of climate change. Several times, she has suggested the science is inconclusive. 

The race

The race pitting Mace, a state representative since 2018, against first-time House member Cunningham is one of 18 pivotal House and Senate contests up for election on Nov. 3 that PolitiFact is tracking. 

The Cook Political Report rates the match-up as "lean Democratic," meaning the race is competitive but Cunningham has an advantage.

Climate change 

According to NASA, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. But "the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely — greater than 95% probability — to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia."

Evidence for the "rapid climate change" includes a global temperature rise, warming of the oceans and shrinking ice sheets.

Here’s a look at six sets of statements Mace has made, focusing on instances where she has spoken at some length.

"Not clear cut"

At a Sept. 3 event sponsored by the Post and Courier, a newspaper in Charleston, a reporter who said he was posing a question from a reader asked Mace if she believes in climate change. Mace began her answer by saying: 

"I’m kind of mixed on this. I’m not a scientist, and I’ve read science on both sides of this issue. To me, it’s not clear cut. I know that here in downtown Charleston, we’re seeing rising sea levels. And that could be a product of the climate, but that’s also partially a product of the peninsula being largely built on landfill in many places."

When the reporter followed up by asking Mace what she’s not sure about, Mace said:

"So, if you look at the history of Earth, we’ve had climate changes many times, over 130 times over millions of years. And so part of it might be man-made; part of it might be just natural environmental causes as part of the cycle of Earth."

She added:

"I think it’s more complicated than people really realize. You can’t say one or the other when there’s data on both sides of the issue. And I read about scientists that have flipped from one side to the other — both ways — so it’s hard to understand and know which one is right."

"Up for debate"

The Washington Examiner reported Sept. 11 that it asked Mace to clarify her position on climate change. 

Mace replied, according to the newspaper, that "she is ‘not a scientist’ and acknowledged sea levels are rising, but whether it is caused by ‘man-made’ climate change or natural reasons is ‘up for debate.’"

"Consider all available data"

In a questionnaire, the Post and Courier asked Cunningham and Mace: "Do you believe in climate change?" The answers were published Sept. 13, with Mace saying:

"I’m not a scientist, but I do know we should consider all available data. South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District is in a unique part of the country subject to massive flooding and Atlantic storms, compounded by our low elevation."

"Science is never settled"

At their first debate, on Sept. 28, Cunningham and Mace were asked if they "agree with the overwhelming majority of scientists who say that climate change is happening due to manmade greenhouse emissions leading to an increase in extreme weather events." Mace replied:

"My opponent is going to tell you I’m a climate denier, which is dishonest. My opponent has said that the science is settled on this. Well, the science is never settled. Scientists will tell you that. I look at the issue from every angle and try to find a solution, as I’ve done as a state lawmaker. Scientists once said the Earth was flat and it’s not, and so these things are evolving, as well."

"Over 130 climate changes"

At their second and final scheduled debate, on Oct. 7, Cunningham and Mace were asked about what has caused a recent rise in the sea level in the area and what they would do about it. Mace said:

"Our Earth has had over 130 climate changes over its history. We are facing great climate change. We’re seeing an increase in the number of hurricanes, sea levels are rising."

Some science says man contributes

In response to Cunningham’s attack, Mace’s campaign cited to PolitiFact an article published Oct. 14 in the Charleston City Paper. The newspaper said it asked Mace if humans are causing climate change, and she responded:

"Does man contribute to it? I mean, a lot of the science says that,  too, but I want to stay informed and do as much as we can, but the other thing that’s important to me is that we just cannot simply rely on the United States (to address it)."

Our ruling

Cunningham’s claim that Mace "denies climate change" is accurate, but needs some clarification. Mace has hedged on the issue, saying the science isn’t conclusive. We rate Cunningham’s claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Mace.com, accessed Oct. 16, 2020 

Email, Joe Cunningham campaign spokeswoman Allie Watters, Oct. 16, 2020

Email, Nancy Mace campaign spokeswoman Mara Mellstrom, Oct. 16, 2020

Twitter, Joe Cunningham tweets, Sept. 3, 2020

YouTube, Post and Courier "Pints and Politics" event with Nancy Mace (32:55), posted Sept. 4, 2020

YouTube, Cunningham-Mace debate (3:35), Sept. 28, 2020

Post and Courier, "Climate change views could be a decider in the Mace-Cunningham SC congressional race," Oct. 8, 2020

Post and Courier, "SC 1st Congressional District: Cunningham and Mace differ on climate change science views," Sept. 13, 2020; updated Sept. 29, 2020 

Charleston City Paper, "Mace seeks to make Cunningham a one-term wonder," Oct. 14, 2020

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More by Tom Kertscher

SC House candidate Nancy Mace hedges, but doesn’t outright confirm climate change

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