All Downhill for Unlucky Skier: Kennedy Shreds “Climate Change Expert” in Hearing 

Pierre Teyssot /
Pierre Teyssot /

Move over, Greta Thunberg. There’s a new spoiled, whiny climate change activist in town, and his name is Gus Schumacher. 

Schumacher, an American cross-country skier, has achieved some impressive milestones in his sport. In 2020, he made history by winning a gold medal at the Junior World Ski Championships, becoming the first American to do so in an individual race. He also took part in the 30-kilometer skiathlon at the 2022 Winter Olympics. He recently won the Men’s 10 km freestyle race at the 2024 Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis. This win was significant because it marked the first time an American male skier won an individual distance event since Bill Koch did it in 1983. 

The 23-year-old skier is involved with Protect Our Winters, a group focused on raising awareness among athletes and highlighting the effects of climate change on winter sports. He wears the organization’s logo on his jacket, which Democrats seemed to think implied he was a dependable and knowledgeable “expert witness” to haul before a Budget Committee hearing discussing the impact of climate change on outdoor recreational sports. 

Schumacher should probably stick to skiing if his recent embarrassment at the hands of Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) during the hearing is any indication. 

Budget Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Schumacher to share his thoughts with the committee as they discussed how climate change affects the recreation industry. As he introduced Schumacher, Whitehouse praised the “credible witnesses” they had heard from throughout the hearing, then unleashed his secret weapon, Schumacher, for the coup de grace.  

The party didn’t last long, though. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) asked the expert a simple question about carbon dioxide, putting the young climate change expert into a tailspin.  

The exchange started innocently enough, with Kennedy asking the skier what carbon dioxide was. The athlete responded that it was a gas and immediately pointed out that while he had gone to high school, he was “not a professional to talk about carbon dioxide.” 

Kennedy asked Schumacher if carbon dioxide was a “major part of the atmosphere,” and Schumacher took the bait, agreeing that it was a “huge part” of the atmosphere. Patiently, as if speaking to a toddler, Kennedy corrected him. “It’s actually a very small part of our atmosphere.” Schumacher’s response was an authoritative, “Well, okay. But yeah, I don’t know.” 

Kennedy seemed to be enjoying himself at this point in the testimony. He reminded the clueless skier of his belief that “we need to reduce carbon emissions,” asking Schumacher pointedly if he even knew what “carbon emissions” were. 

Schumacher may not have known about carbon emissions, but he knew climate change had “dramatically altered” winter sports during his skiing career. 

Kennedy quickly grew bored with the game and turned his attention to some old social media posts from Schumacher’s accounts. “When my colleagues invite witnesses to advise us on passing legislation, I always check out the background of our witnesses because I like to know who I’m talking to,” the senator told the room. 

First up was a share and repost of a comment suggesting that the war on drugs was created to arrest Black individuals. Schumacher claimed he had not posted the original comment and tried to deflect the questions, pointing out that his social media posts were not the topic at hand. 

Kennedy pressed on, revealing a reposted “abolish the police” comment by the skier. “Should we do that before or after we get rid of fossil fuels?” Kennedy wondered. 

The irony is astonishing. Schumacher, who relies on the petroleum industry for everything related to his sport, from his clothing and equipment to the jets he uses for transportation to sporting events, has little to add to a hearing about the devasting effects of man-made climate change. 

He’s John Kerry on skis. 

But Schumacher is cashing in on the trend of young and entitled people speaking out against climate change, often without fully understanding what they are protesting. 

In 2019, a then-16-year-old Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit with her “How dare you” speech, an enthusiastic condemnation of world leaders for their part in man-made climate change. Following her speech, she remained active in the movement and now, at 21, has faced multiple legal battles for her role in disruptive protests. Recently, Swedish police forcibly removed her from a climate protest outside the Swedish parliament. 

What these young “activists” lack in knowledge, they make up for in enthusiasm. For Democrats, perhaps that’s enough. Just ask AOC, the poster child for energetic but often misguided activism.