The science advocacy group ScienceDebate.org asked the top presidential candidates some tough questions—and they actually responded. The biggest surprise? Mitt Romney believes in climate change again.
In response to the climate question, which asked each candidate how they would address global warming, Romney reiterated the mushy-but-climate-change-acknowledging response he first gave last year in New Hampshire:
I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.Wow! Remember, last year, Romney sent himself on a downward climate spiral after saying much the same thing at an early campaign stop during the GOP primaries:
"I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he said. "It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."
Right after that, Rush Limbaugh and some Fox News personalities yelled a lot and then Romney changed his mind. Thenceforth, his responses would run along the lines of:
"Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is. I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans." That's what he said last August, and what he's been saying ever since.
But that was during the primaries, when he and eight other dudes were trying to out-rightwing each other. Now he can safely utter bland statements that prevent him from fully appearing to be an anti-science dunce while still reassuring his party loyalty and campaign donors that he will not in any way attempt to limit carbon pollution. Which brings us back to his ScienceDebate.org answer:
the reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment ... So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade systemTranslation: I believe that humans are causing climate change, but, here in the United States, I do not think that they should stop causing it. At least not until China and those poor pollute-ier countries stop causing it first.
It will be interesting to see if Limbaugh, Fox and co. seize on this one, too—or if they're too firmly in 'Elect Romney' mode to ruffle any Tea Party climate skeptic feathers.