When asked by UNH student Amina Hughes if burning fossil fuels causes climate change, Marco Rubio quickly dismissed the idea. “It doesn’t matter,” he insisted, professing his concern for the state of our economy and his prioritization of jobs and economic growth far above 30 years of scientific data.

Having listened to many politicians in town hall settings such as this, as the primary heats up in my home state of New Hampshire, I can’t say I’m surprised. Though his answer is not the rhetoric of elections past, littered with claims that there’s no evidence for global warming or propaganda that it’s all a left wing hoax, he speaks to another form of climate denial. This brand states that, while it may be real, it’s not important.

He argues that “we need to be economically competitive” and that we need to use the “gifts” of oil, coal, and natural gas because they are there. Setting aside how flawed that argument is based on the facts, Rubio’s assertion that we need to be economically competitive and therefore shouldn’t focus on clean energy is disturbingly misguided. China, India and most of Europe have committed to reducing carbon emissions by 30% in the next decade, phasing out of fossil fuel usage and into clean energy. In a world where fewer and fewer countries rely on fossil fuel energy, how can we hope to compete through fossil fuel solutions?

Clean energy not only eliminates our dependence on any oil, foreign or domestic, but it creates sustainable jobs in the maintenance and development of the technologies used to harness wind, solar, geothermal or any other natural energy source. It promotes our ability to leave future generations a sustainable earth while working to eliminate issues faced by groups who are already disenfranchised by systemic power and are disproportionately affected by climate change.

To use our fossil fuel reserves is grossly irresponsible for the future of our planet and it’s global population. Marco Rubio wants to do just that. Can our country and our planet survive a leader who so vehemently denies scientific consensus?

Jordan Cichon is a local community organizer and a native of Dover, New Hampshire. She believes that a better world is possible through climate justice.