Another week, another alarming report about the potential effects of climate change. Researchers from NASA and Columbia and Cornell universities released a paper Thursday that projects “unprecedented” risk of drought in the coming decades for the southwest and central United States. The increasing likelihood of “megadroughts” that could last decades is “an unprecedented fundamental climate shift with respect to the last millennium.”

This report, of course, is far from the first paper pointing out the effects of climate change: higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more likelihood of extreme weather events and so on. Eighty seven percent of scientists believe humans are driving risky change. The consensus is overwhelming: Climate change is here, and we need to do something about it.

Which brings me to Scott Walker and his dodge on whether he believes in evolution, and more specifically, the conservative complaint that the question has no value and is only asked because journalists know it will generate headlines. For example, Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro writes, “there is little doubt that the media are now playing a ‘gotcha’ game, in which Republicans are asked questions that have no bearing on public policy to drive wedges into the conservative base, while Democrats are allowed to ignore serious scientific questions that have real public policy consequences.”

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I have no doubt that Shapiro is right that at least some reporters ask these questions because they know the answers will get attention. But that doesn’t take away the fact that a candidate’s answer to the question “Do you believe in evolution?” tells us something very valuable about how a candidate prioritizes scientific evidence against politics in making policy.

In criticizing those who ask about evolution, conservatives have accidentally shown why that question stands out from most. Hot Air’s Allahpundit suggests Walker could have asked the interviewer “when he thinks human life begins, or what his opinion is of genetically modified foods, or fracking.” RedState’s Dan McLaughlin offers some non-science-related questions, like “Should we pay reparations for slavery?” and “Should we support taxpayer funding of abortion?” But the difference between most of those questions and a belief in evolution is that, in the case of the former, there is clearly room for debate, whether it be what we mean by “life” or whether reparations are a good policy. On the other hand, 98 percent of scientists believe in evolution, 88 percent in the safety of genetically modified foods and 87 percent in man-made climate change.

By asking about evolution, we are effectively asking, “How much of scientific consensus do you need before you reconsider your views?” It is right to ask leaders whether they will be like Jon Huntsman and put the science over the politics, or if they will be like the North Carolina state legislators who, instead of planning for future sea rises, literally changed the state’s climate forecasts. If they don’t believe in evolution, it seems highly unlikely they will defer to the science on climate change.

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Walker, after all, answered the question later on Twitter, writing, “Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible, & go hand in hand.” That is a perfectly acceptable and straightforward answer, a view that is shared by millions of Americans, including scientists. So why did he not just say that from the start? Why did he decide to hem and haw? It is clear that he was worried what the backlash to that answer might be, no matter how much it was supported by the facts. That cowardice should scare everyone.

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