This has been a hard week for the GOP’s presidential prospects. First Newt Gingrich laid into the House Republican budget plan with the force of a DailyKos diarist. Now another big name (likely) presidential candidate is refusing to admit that man-made climate change might be a hoax.
“If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them,” former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman told Time in a new interview. “I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community - though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.”
The reaction to that little nugget was about as you’d expect.
Never mind that Huntsman also backs off his past support for cap-and-trade in the interview, or that he basically says that while climate change is a problem, it’s not one that America should deal with until after the economy recovers (both standard GOP talking points). It’s his basic understanding of the concept that human-caused climate change is real — and even worse, that maybe something should be done to stop it — that caused a stir on Tuesday.
“[T]hat talking point is either a misquote of a recent scam too many fell for, or just made up and regardless silly,” the American Spectator’s Chris Horner wrote, referring to the conservative view that the number of scientists claiming climate change is real has been seriously conflated by the environmental movement, as has the results of their work.
“[R]eally, no one disputes that climate changes, always has, always will, that’s what it does,” Horner wrote. “No one, that is, except for people who revise history to create ‘smoking gun!’ Hockey Stick graphs and the like.”
Over at RedState, Daniel Horowitz wrote that Huntsman’s views on climate change’s human origins were just another piece of the Huntsman which conservatives have found less than palatable thanks to his moderate views on gay rights (he’s for civil unions) and the uncomfortable fact that until this month he was a full-fledged member of the Obama administration.
The interview Huntsman gave to Time “can only mean that he is seeking the VP nomination for a Mike Bloomberg ticket,” Horowitz wrote.
Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin nicely summarizes the dangers of not being a climate change denier in the modern GOP:
There is nothing that controversial about saying the climate is changing. Over the course of recorded history, we know that climates have shifted, sometimes in extreme fashion. After all, in Leif Erickson’s time, Greenland was actually green though pre-industrial human activity almost certainly had nothing to do with it. The question is, do you, like [Al] Gore, accept as a matter of faith, alarmist warming predictions and that, also as a matter of faith, humans are the ones who are responsible for the problem? Those who do so are more likely than not to support, at least in principle, the sort of radical cut backs in emissions that would cripple the global economy and place restrictions on economic freedom as well as personal liberty
Huntsman’s past support for cap and trade and his unwillingness to see the question as one of economic freedom versus top-down overregulation makes him a hard sell for the GOP core. His response was also a far cry from the full-scale mea culpa that Tim Pawlenty has adopted to apologize for his past support of such schemes.
Huntsman’s not likely to win with the hardcore right-wing GOP base anyway. So the fact that RedState is picking at him is probably not something he’s all that concerned about. But the fact that he admits that the scientific community isn’t practicing some mass form of negligence (or pulling one over on us all) when they say humans are causing the Earth’s climate to change puts him on the radical left of the modern Republican party. In March, for example, every single Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee refused to admit that climate change is real.
Tim Pawlenty, who most think has a better shot at the Republican presidential nomination than Huntsman, has so far been able to slide by with his past support for climate change legislation by, basically, completely disavowing it and apologizing profusely.
Pawlenty has not appeared to back away entirely from the view that humans play a role in climate change, but he told RealClearPolitics last June that he’s on the fence:
When it comes to climate change we have to recognize the climate is always changing. It’s a dynamic situation and we have to differentiate between what is man made vs. what’s caused by natural causes and natural climatic cycles.
That may be good enough for conservatives, who seem to be warming to the concept of Pawlenty in general. But Huntsman’s decision to stand with the scientists seems unlikely to win him many friends on the right.