- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman turned heads today when he declared at a Heritage Foundation event that there are "questions about the validity of" climate science and "not enough information right now to be able to formulate policies" to address climate change. While acknowledging the overwhelming consensus among scientists on climate change — and even suggesting we defer to it — Huntsman concluded that the debate still needs to "play out within the scientific community."
While the comments may seem like a subdued version of the climate-change skepticism expressed by nearly all of this year’s Republican candidates, they’re surprising given that Huntsman distanced himself from the GOP field in August by tweeting that he
"trust[ed] scientists on global warming" and cautioning Republicans against becoming the "anti-science party." Huntsman has also renounced cap-and-trade schemes after implementing a cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse-gas emissions as governor of Utah. The "Energy Security" section on Huntsman’s website stays quiet on climate change.
While Huntsman may be the latest Republican candidate to veer toward the climate skeptics after expressing more moderate positions, he’s certainly not the first. Mitt Romney said "we don’t know what’s causing climate change" after previously saying humans were contributing to global warming. Ron Paul, who once allowed that human activity might play a role in climate change, now calls global warming a "hoax." And Newt Gingrich, who joined Nancy Pelosi in 2008 to urge government action on global warming (see below) now says
the ad is "probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years. It is inexplicable." (In an interview with Glenn Beck today, Gingrich softened a bit, saying
"I think that there is evidence on both sides of the climate change argument.")
These shifts in position, of course, could be in response to new evidence such as leaked emails from climate scientists, but they also smack of the need to play to the base during primaries. A Pew Survey last week found that while
there has been "sharp increases in the percentages of independents and moderate and liberal Republicans who say there is solid evidence of global warming" since 2009, "opinions among conservative Republicans have changed little since 2009," with just over 30 percent believing there is solid evidence for climate change.