Watch CBSN Live

Bernie Sanders: Climate Change Skeptics Like Those Who Downplayed Nazism

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that people who do not take the threat of climate change seriously remind him of those who downplayed the growing threat of fascism and Nazism in the 1930s.

The climate change debate "reminds me in some ways of the debate taking place in this country and around the world in the late 1930s," Sanders said during a Senate hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's 2011 budget, which you can watch here. (The comments come at the 103rd minute.)

He continued: "And during that period with Nazism and fascism growing -- a real danger to the United States and Democratic countries all over the world -- there were people in this Congress, in the British parliament saying, 'don't worry! Hitler is not real! It'll disappear! We don't have to be prepared to take it on.'"

Asked about the comments, Sanders Communications Director Michael Briggs told Hotsheet that the senator, who believes climate change is real, "was comparing [climate change skeptics] to people in this country who were isolationists who didn't think we needed to confront the threat."

Sanders took heat from Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Senate's leading climate change skeptic, earlier in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. Inhofe said "I know the senator from Vermont wants so badly to believe that the science on climate change is settled but it's not," according to Politico.

Inhofe is pressing for a reappraisal of the government's position on climate change following revelations of errors in reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (deemed "trivial" by Sanders) as well as the so-called "Climategate" controversy. He wants an investigation into what he calls "the greatest scientific scandal of our generation," complete with testimony from former Vice President Al Gore.

But as the New York Times notes, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson did not give an inch when it came to the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.

"The science behind climate change is settled, and human activity is responsible for global warming," she said. "That conclusion is not a partisan one."

Republicans criticized the EPA at the hearing for its plan to introduce greenhouse gas regulations next month.