Republican Hopefuls Differ on Approaches To Acknowledging, Addressing Climate Issues

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By Anthony Adragna

April 20 — Republican presidential hopefuls lacked a unified stance on whether or how to tackle climate change as they fielded a range of questions on the topic in recent days.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said April 19 on CBS' Face the Nation that “humans are not responsible for climate change in the way some of these people out there are trying to make us believe” as he voiced opposition to policy approaches such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system to cut greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds they would be “devastating” to the economy.

His fellow Floridian, former Gov. Jeb Bush, took a different approach at an event April 17 in New Hampshire when he said “the climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that” but noted he was more concerned about other issues, like the economy.

Those answers are indicative of the choices Republicans must make to keep their campaigns afloat, political observers have previously told Bloomberg BNA.

Some, like Bush, are expected to push more moderate positions on issues such as climate change to make themselves more palatable to the broader American electorate, while others, like Rubio, will carve out positions designed to appeal to conservatives.

One source of unity among the candidates came in their opposition to the approach taken by President Barack Obama to address climate change, which the hopefuls warned would cripple economic growth and cost thousands of people their jobs.

Push for Moderate Voters.

Bush is expected to compete with several candidates, including potential rivals Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), for support of moderate Republican voters during the primary campaign.

All three men acknowledged climate change was real during the weekend of April 18, but they rejected the approaches pursued by the Obama administration to address the problem. None have formally entered the race.

Graham, who told Fox News Sunday April 19 there was a 91 percent chance he'd run for president, called climate change “real” but said he rejected “the cap and trade solution.”

“I would like to clean up the air and water, become more energy [independent], create jobs,” Graham said. “I'm for offshore drilling. I'm for finding oil and gas that we own. I'm for coal, I'm for clean coal, I'm for natural gas but I would like a lower carbon economy over time. Clean up the air and create jobs in the process.”

Christie faced questions on his climate change stance during an informal town hall appearance April 19 in New Hampshire. Told by one audience member he needed a “better answer” on the issue, the New Jersey governor replied, “It’s not that I need a better answer, you just want me to have your answer.”

“I believe climate change is real,” Christie said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The question is how you address it.”

Earlier, Bush garnered unusual praise from environmental groups April 17 when he became the first Republican candidate to call for the U.S. “to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.” Many Republicans have opposed the U.S. workingtoward an international agreement on climate change this December in Paris.

Rubio Position Unchanged.

Unlike some of his potential rivals, Rubio doubled down on a position that the cause of climate change was unknown despite the flurry of criticism he received over it in 2014.

“I believe the climate is changing because there’s never been a moment where the climate is not changing,” Rubio, who entered the race April 13, said during his Face the Nation appearance. “If we do the things they want us to do, cap-and-trade, you name it, how much will that change the pace of climate change versus how much will that cost to our economy? Scientists can’t tell us what impact it would have on reversing these changes, but I can tell you with certainty, it would have a devastating impact on our economy.”

Rubio's assertion of uncertainty about the role of human activity has been dismissed by the scientific community. A 2013 survey of scientific literature published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that 97.2 percent of climate scientists believe human activity plays a major role in climate change.

By Anthony Adragna

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at