G.O.P. Candidates Face a Question: Is Global Warming Man-Made?

I'm beginning to notice a theme. In September, Minnesota Public Radio ran this article: St. Paul, Minn. -- Nearly all of the Republicans running ...
by | November 12, 2009

I'm beginning to notice a theme. In September, Minnesota Public Radio ran this article:

St. Paul, Minn. -- Nearly all of the Republicans running for governor next year say they don't believe in human-caused climate change.

In fact, eight of the nine declared GOP candidates say they view global warming science as an unproven theory that should no longer drive state policy. Environmental activists say the prevailing GOP view not only runs counter to the beliefs of most scientists, but also to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Now, the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois has this story:

Most of the Republican candidates for Illinois governor flatly reject the idea that human activity contributes to global warming, a position that contradicts the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists.

Five of the seven Republican candidates claim rising temperatures have nothing to do with pollution from cars, factories or power plants.

"I don't accept the premise that man is the cause of global warming, if global warming even exists," Kirk Dillard, a state senator from Hinsdale, said at a candidate forum last week.

You might remember Dillard's name. He's the Illinois Republican state senator who vouched for President Obama's bipartisan credentials during the campaign.

A couple years ago, a Republican like Dillard would have been very likely to say that humans are causing global warming. In fact, many of the most active governors on global warming were Republicans.

George Pataki, New York's Republican governor, was the driving force behind the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an actual, live cap-and-trade system (I wonder whether that will come up if he runs for president). Other Republican governors, including Jodi Rell, Jim Douglas and Don Carcieri, joined RGGI too. Mitt Romney backed out because of concerns over energy costs, not doubts about the science of global warming. Elsewhere, Republican governors such as Charlie Crist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty moved fairly aggressively to limit emissions.

Even Republican governors who opposed cap-and-trade tended to accept (though certainly not uniformly) the science behind global warming. Many Republican elected officials argued that technological innovation, not government regulation, was the solution -- without questioning the science. A certain Alaska governor declared, while arguing against listing polar bears as an endangered species, "The state...is well aware of the problems caused by climate change."

It will be interesting to watch whether, even in relatively progressive states like Illinois and Minnesota, doubting the existence of man-made global warming has become a prerequisite for winning a Republican nomination. Assuming some of these Republicans win, it also will be interesting to watch whether they stick by their skeptical views or whether they were just engaging in political posturing.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

More from Politics