Jon Huntsman Shifts Stance On Climate Change

12/06/2011 03:45 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2012

Back when former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was trying to make a name for himself, he fired off a tweet that sought to separate him from the rest of the 2012 GOP field: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." Suddenly, a lot of people were interested in Jon Huntsman again! But his nominal support for scientific reality only took him so far with primary voters. And by "so far," I mean, "almost nowhere." Now, mired in the low single digits as per usual, Huntsman offered a different take on the matter Tuesday in remarks to the Heritage Foundation. Here's Politico:

Scientists "owe us more in terms of a better description or explanation" on climate change before we decide whether climate change is real, Huntsman said, per POLITICO's Juana Summers.

He said that "there's not enough information to formulate policies" to address it.

It's sort of tough to reconcile Huntsman's remarks with his "Call me crazy" tweet of yesteryear. If scientists haven't done enough to "describe" or "explain" what's going on, consequently leaving Huntsman unable to "formulate policies," then why did they have his "trust" in the first place? Did he just mean to say that while science hadn't done enough to convince him, he still felt scientists were really nice people?

Somewhere between robust support for policies based on climate change and outright denial of its existence is the territory where Huntsman is now perched: everyone else needs to do a little bit more to convince him to do something, so for the time being, he's going to kick the can down the road. And the truth is that this isn't something new for Huntsman: as Rachel Weiner wrote in the Washington Post back in August, Huntsman did, as governor of Utah, support a "regional cap-and-trade program." He no longer backs such a program, citing the 2008 economic collapse as the reason: "Much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn't the moment."

But the more prescient observation that Weiner made back in August was that Huntsman's shaky stance on the issue wasn't that much different from that of two other candidates in the race:

[Mitt] Romney has long argued that climate change is at least in part man-made. "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," the 2012 candidate said in June. "It's important for us to reduce our emissions and pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."

But in July, Romney said, "The EPA is getting into carbon footprints and I think we may have made a mistake ... I don't think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies." (When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he initially backed a regional greenhouse gas reduction initiative before withdrawing support in 2005, saying the program would hurt the economy.)

Meanwhile, Gingrich has long argued that global warming is a problem, saying in 2007 that "there is a consensus that for the last 100 years the planet's gotten somewhat warmer. The second consensus is that humans have contributed to that." But he opposes regulation.

And what candidates are now seen as vying for the top spot in the polls? Romney and Gingrich. That explains Huntsman's deviation today. He trusts scientists, but -- call him crazy! -- he'd really, really like to win the nomination now.

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