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May 4 — Three Republicans, the latest to join the field of presidential hopefuls, are representative of their party's near-universal opposition to President Barack Obama's efforts to tackle climate change, but they hold more diverse stances on the existence and severity of the problem.
The three Republicans—former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, retired John Hopkins Hospital neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—all agree that Obama's approach to addressing climate change through regulation is wrong but their positions range from completely denying there is a problem to urging technological innovation as the primary mechanism for addressing it.
Carson has spoken of the need to protect the environment but disputes the scientific consensus that human activity significantly contributes to climate change. Fiorina hasn't disputed that scientific consensus, but she has said federal and state regulations hurt the economy while not making “a bit of difference in climate change.”
Huckabee, governor of Arkansas from 1996 through 2007, once supported a cap-and-trade systems for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2007, but he reversed himself several years later and denied making those remarks. Most recently he mocked Obama's comments that climate change is a national security threat by saying there are far greater risks to the nation than a “sunburn.”
Carson and Fiorina, considered long-shots for the Republican presidential nomination, announced their bids May 4, while Huckabee is expected to jump in May 5, according to Bloomberg News.
They join a still-expanding field of Republican presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.). Others, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, are also expected to seek the Republican nomination.
“I just wouldn’t rule any of them out at this point,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told Bloomberg BNA May 4. “Money is going to be a big divider, but you might have someone who surges up without the money and it might change the whole race.”
Republican contenders are likely to avoid discussing climate change whenever possible during their primary campaigns and instead will look to discuss domestic energy production and development issues, several political lobbyists and aides told Bloomberg BNA.
“The right answer in the Republican primary with respect to energy is not who is the most [correct] with respect to global warming,” Michael McKenna, a Republican lobbyist and strategist, told Bloomberg BNA. “The right answer will be the candidate who grasps the [energy] abundance narrative and its implications.”
Fiorina, who served as HP CEO from 1999 through 2005 and launched an unsuccessful run in 2010 for the seat held by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), has not denied that human activity significantly contributes to climate change, but she has said technological research and development should be the solution.
“I believe, as with many problems, the answer to this problem is not regulation, it is innovation,” Fiorina said in February 2015. “And, frankly speaking, the [Environmental Protection Agency] is shutting down every ounce of innovation in this area, and I don’t think that we’re paying attention to all the science. I think too many politicians are paying attention only to the part of the science that confirms their ideology.”
Global efforts at reducing greenhouse gas emissions—even through an international agreement that countries hope to reach later this year in Paris—would be ineffective because many nations will simply refuse to follow the U.S. lead, Fiorina said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in April.
“Only a global program over many decades costing trillions of dollars is going to have an impact at all,” Fiorina said. “Because we will never have a harmonized regulatory regime throughout the whole globe—particularly if China needs to grow their economy, which they do—the only answer to this is innovation. At that, America should be the best in the world.”
Fiorina also called California's multi-year drought a “man-made disaster” fueled by the burdensome regulatory requirements pushed by “liberal environmentalists.”
“California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people's lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology,” Fiorina said. “It is a tragedy.”
During her 2010 Senate bid in California, Fiorina attacked Boxer for placing such importance on climate change with the line: “Terrorism kills and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather.”
Carson, who has never held elected office, has rarely spoken about the environment but did author an op-ed piece in 2014 expressing support for conservation while expressing skepticism at the causes of climate change.
“Whether we are experiencing global warming or a coming ice age, which was predicted in the 1970s, we as responsible human beings must be concerned about our surroundings and what we will pass on to future generations,” Carson wrote in the March 2014 op-ed. “However, to use climate change as an excuse not to develop our God-given resources makes little sense.”
Rather than “stifle” energy production and development through regulations, the EPA should work “in conjunction with business, industry and universities to find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources,” Carson told Bloomberg News in November 2014.
Carson, who rose to prominence in 2013 after criticizing Obama during the National Prayer Breakfast, frequently cites his medical background and support for science in his speeches but nevertheless rejects the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists.
“We may be warming,” Carson told Bloomberg News. “We may be cooling.”
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.
The retired neurosurgeon also has voiced support for building the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, calling the infrastructure project “perfectly safe.”
Huckabee most recently criticized comments from Obama that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations” than climate change, saying the risks of climate change pale in comparison to those of terrorism.
“Not to diminish anything about the climate at all, but Mr. President, I believe that most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn,” Huckabee told the Iowa Freedom Summit in January, referring to recent beheadings in eastern Syria by the Islamic State group.
Back in 2007, Huckabee voiced support for a cap-and-trade system and spoke of the “responsibility” humans have for protecting the Earth from the impacts of climate change.
“One thing that all of us have a responsibility to do is recognize that climate change is here, it's real,” Huckabee told the Clean Air Cool Planet conference in November 2007. “What we have to do is quit pointing fingers as to who's at fault and recognize that it's all our fault and it's all our responsibility to fix it.”
Three years later, the former Arkansas governor denied ever backing any form of cap-and-trade and warned that such an approach would have been a “job killer.”
“This kind of mandatory energy policy would have a horrible impact on this nation's job market,” Huckabee said. “I never did support and never would support it—period.”
Though Huckabee's brand of conservatism boosted his candidacy in 2008—he won the Iowa's Republican caucuses—observers said the challenge for the former governor will be building momentum for a second run.
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