This week the Iowa straw poll will begin to divide the pool of potential presidential candidates. Yet for those voters who care about climate action, the division has already begun.
While the words "climate" and "energy" seems to be on the lips of every presidential hopeful this election cycle, many of the Republican primary contenders are consistently inconsistent in what they are saying. Some are purely using these issues to score political points, and are doing so by railing on proven energy solutions or altogether denying that climate is a problem. But the most intriguing are those that are running away from previous support for climate action, and they'll use every trick in the book to spin their way out of admitting the truth: that global warming is a serious problem that necessitates any serious presidential candidate to put forward solutions they would impose if elected.
As recently as 2007, Newt Gingrich stated in a debate with Senator John Kerry that the "evidence is sufficient" on global warming and that it necessitated urgent action to reduce carbon pollution. Gingrich even recorded a commercial with then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as part of a global warming ad campaign sponsored by the Alliance for Climate Protection. But now-candidate Gingrich called for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency at the Conservative Political Action Conference and has completely flipped on his support for global warming policies, claiming in June 2011 that the "facts are up in the air" on proven climate science.
As governor, Huntsman signed on Utah to the Western Climate Initiative and in the following year set a goal for the state to reduce its global warming pollution by 2020. In 2007, he also appeared in an Environmental Defense Action Fund ad calling for Congress to cap greenhouse gases.
Huntsman continues to stand by his acceptance of proven climate science as a presidential candidate, stating that "90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring" and that we should listen to them, though in that same TIME interview he backtracked on his previous support for cap and trade as a solution. And when pushed on the issue of supporting global warming legislation, his excuse to FOX News was that "everybody was doing it". Another distinction between him and the rest of the field: relative radio silence on the EPA. Of course that includes defending it.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was once considered a regional leader on climate action. In 2007, he signed a signed a state climate bill requiring that 25 percent of Minnesota's electricity come from renewable sources by 2025 and then added Minnesota to a regional climate partnership with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin called the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a regional cap-and-trade system. He said at the time that he wanted his state's actions to spark a response at the national level. Governor Pawlenty in 2008 even recorded a commercial for the Environmental Defense Fund with then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano stating "Come on Congress. Let's get moving ... cap greenhouse-gas pollution now."
Yet candidate Pawlenty has said that his previous support of climate legislation was a mistake and has even gone so far as to completely abandon his belief in climate science, telling FOX News recently that there's "great scientific dispute" as to whether humans contribute to climate change and even worse, claiming to the Miami Herald that "most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes". Pawlenty has also taken aim at the EPA on the campaign trail, promising "more monitoring of EPA's affects on our freedom" and that he would "require sunsetting of all federal regulations" as president.
Mitt Romney has said it before and, to his credit, is saying it again on the 2011 campaign trail: he believes the world is getting warmer and that humans are contributing to that pattern, though that hasn't stopped him on flip-flopping on his belief that "carbon is a pollutant". And although he continues to admit that "it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors", like his counterparts he'd rather attack cap and trade and the EPA than provide real solutions. Again, singing a different tune than in 2005 when Romney actually touted climate legislation as "good for business", according to the Boston Globe.
Stay tuned! There's lots more to report on the gaggle of candidates aiming to inhabit the White House.