Green College Sports

Green Meets March Madness: OFA’s Climate Change Fantasy Tournament


Bracketology is the process of predicting the field of college basketball squads in the NCAA Basketball Tournament and then the results of the tournament. While not a word in the Merriam-Webster sense (yet), it is certainly a part of the American Zeitgeist (a word). $9-12 billion will be wagered on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which is now underway (I know, you’re watching!)

An estimated $1-$2 billion in US productivity will be lost during the day sessions today and Friday. And given the ubiquity of the tournament, it’s not surprising that the green world has used the bracketology metaphor to make a variety of salient points.

Today, we take a look at Organizing For Action’s “Climate Change Fantasy Tournament.”

Last year, GreenSportsBlog ran a post about the intersection of Green and Bracketology. In it, we highlighted how The Nature Conservancy and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (LCV), among others, used bracketology to engage andmotivate their constituencies to action.  They did so because, in addition to the immense popularity of March Madness, it is also:

  • Elegantly simple:  Two teams/ideas/products/issues/people compete. One wins and moves on; the other goes home.  “Survive and Advance” is an almost universally understood concept.
  • FUN, something that is in short supply when talking about/dealing with climate change.

This time around, GSB features Organizing For Action (OFA) and its “Climate Change Fantasy Tournament” as great example of an organization, devoted to the climate change fight, using the March Madness bracketology to gain attention and make a point.

OFA is the organization of grassroots activists dedicated to the advancement of President Obama’s agenda (during his two Presidential campaigns OFA, then named Obama For America, worked to elect and re-elect him.) There are OFA sub-sections devoted to healthcare, immigration, the economy, etc.

The climate change sub-section, focuses on outing the climate change deniers/skeptics in the House and Senate who oppose the President’s climate change plans and executive actions. The ultimate goal is to either flip them to the side of science (good luck) or to defeat them and replace them with people who live in, you know, the real world.

GreenSportsBlog applauds OFA for its clever use of bracketology through “Climate Change Fantasy Tournament”. Per the OFA site, “despite the overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and man-made, these sixteen members of Congress prefer to live in a fantasy world, refusing to accept the basic facts.”

The “Un-Sweet 16” were divided, NCAA Tournament-style, into four regions. Given the number of climate change deniers and skeptics in Congress, most of whom are Republicans (since when did science become partisan? Sigh.), it must not have been easy to get to 16. But OFA did the hard work, which made the voting much simpler than if the competition started with 68, a la the actual tournament on the hardwood.

Visitors to the OFA site voted and the 16 were whittled down to the Embarrassing Eight: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) vs. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in the Midwest; Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) vs. Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-NC) in the South/East; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vs. James Inhofe (R-OK) in the South/Central; and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) vs. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) in the West.

Embarrassing Eight voting went like this:

  • Boehner v. King: Boehner, who leads the Republican House Caucus that is virtually in lockstep in its climate denial, defeated King, who, while a denier, is more identified with the immigration issue.
  • Rubio v. Pittenger: Rubio, with his high profile as a potential Presidential candidate, defeated Pittenger, a relative unknown denier (“We don’t have the facts…This is a hoax.”) Rubio once made somewhat sensible statements on climate change but has now flipped in the denial direction–“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,”–which is tragic since he represents the state that is perhaps most likely to suffer near-term catastrophic effects from climate change.
  • McConnell v. Inhofe: In what could be considered an upset, given McConnell’s role as Majority Leader, Inhofe advanced. And, while McConnell made approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline the first bill he put forth once the GOP took control of the Upper Chamber in January, Inhofe got the nod due to his long-time, vocal (“I have offered compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax”) climate denial and his position to influence the climate change debate as Chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee (you really can’t make this stuff up).




Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, about to throw a snowball in the Senate chamber in Washington on February 26, 2015. He cited the cold, snowy winter in the Northeast as proof that human activity is not the cause of climate change. At least 97 percent of scientists working on the topic strongly disagree. (Photo credit: ABC News)


  • Gardner v. Hunter: Gardner got some consideration by winning the senate seat last fall as a climate denier in the green state of Colorado (he emphasized other issues, evaded climate change questions in debates.) But Hunter “won” this contest by provocative statements like this: “Nobody really knows the cause (of climate change.) The earth cools, the earth warms … It could be caused by carbon dioxide or methane. Maybe we should kill the cows to stop the methane, or stop breathing to stop the CO2 … Thousands of people die every year of cold, so if we had global warming it would save lives … We ought to look out for people. The earth can take care of itself.” Hunter is basically a junior version of Inhofe. That he represents California, a state battered by a four-year drought ascribed, in part, to climate change, also likely figured in the decision.

Climate Change Fantasy

Organizing For Action’s Climate Change Fantasy Tournament bracket. Fans are in the process of voting for the Denial Finalists; the worst climate change deniers in Congress. The field has been carved from the Unsweet Sixteen to the Embarrassing Eight to the Flunked-Science Four.


So now we are down to the Flunked Science Four: Boehner v. Rubio and Inhofe v. Hunter. GSB’s votes are with Rubio (flip-flopping the wrong way, influence in climate change-challenged Florida and potential Presidential candidacy) and Inhofe (a rabid climate change denier as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee? Sheesh.) If those are the Denial Finalists, GSB goes with Inhofe. If you’d like to weigh in, do so officially here* and let us know your picks in the comment section below.


* When you vote, you will be asked by OFA to make a contribution. That is, of course, up to you.



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