On August 18, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." With that short statement, Mr. Huntsman proved himself one of the few reasonable figures in the Republican Party. While most of the Republican field has run away from previously stated positions affirming climate change (or simply continuing their nonsensical denial of the science) it was incredibly refreshing to hear this kind of language from Huntsman. In a previous post, I outlined the clear positions of several of the most important scientific organizations in the U.S., which showed that there is a scientific consensus on global warming- that it is happening and is largely being caused by human activity. If you have not read the statements of these organizations -- the consensus statements of actual climate scientists -- you are depriving yourself of essential primary source information about an issue that has been spun and distorted by the media and particularly by right-wing commentators. That Huntsman has stuck to his belief in climate change despite the strong global warming denialist crosswinds that have overtaken the GOP in the past couple of years shows immense intellectual honesty and fortitude.
Here's an example of a prominent Republican without such intellectual honesty.
Gingrich now claims he regrets appearing in that ad and has been walking back his older statements in order to appease a Republican base that believes that all of the world's climate scientists involved in a great hoax.
Former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is another politician who has distanced himself from an earlier position affirming human-caused climate change to make himself more appealing to Republican primary voters. Pawlenty even previously supported caps on carbon emissions. In 2007, while announcing a climate change commission, Mr. Pawlenty said:
Our global climate is warming, at least in part due to the energy sources we use. We cannot solve it by ourselves, but we need to lead and do our part. We also need to push for an effective national and international effort.
In 2010, after clearly posturing himself as a candidate, Pawlenty said:
The climate's obviously changing, but the real question and the more interesting question is how much of that is man-made, how much of that is the result of natural causes and patterns? And, of course, we've seen a lot of data manipulation and a lot of controversy or at least debate within the scientific community.
This statement is especially misleading because it makes two false claims- that scientists were manipulating data and that there is "a lot" of "debate" within the scientific community about whether climate change is happening. The former claim refers to an email hacking scandal at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University in the United Kingdom, where some email messages of CRU scientists were alleged to cast doubt on the integrity of CRU's climate research and conclusions. However, six independent commissions conducted investigations into the allegations and all of the commissions concluded that there was no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
Like Huntsman, GOP presidential frontrunner candidate Mitt Romney has also continued to affirm his belief that global warming is occurring and is due to human activity. In June 2011, Romney stated, "I don't speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that."
On the other hand, Romney has assailed efforts by Democrats to enact measures that will curtail and eventually reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He opposes the proposed "cap and trade" method of reducing carbon. It's not surprising that he does this, since he would not be a viable Republican candidate if he advocated "cap and trade" for carbon emissions.
Interestingly enough, "cap and trade" is a Republican creation. It is a very sensible way of dealing with pollution by harnessing market forces. President George H. W. Bush effectively ended the acid rain problem in the northeastern U.S. by implementing a cap and trade regime on sulfur emissions. He also drastically slowed the depletion of the ozone by implementing a cap and trade program for chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals. These cap and trade programs were proposed during President Reagan's administration and implemented during President Bush Sr.'s time in office. How ironic is it that today, Republican politicians make comparisons to Stalin and Hitler when they attack President Obama and Democrats for seeking to use a cap and trade program to lower carbon emissions?! They would be more appropriate in comparing Obama to Reagan!
Nonetheless, Huntsman and Romney both deserve credit for effectively taking pro-science positions on climate change. Despite Romney's pandering to the GOP base on a host of other issues, it is relief to see consistency on at least one.
Here is a great article that highlight's some of the pro-science positions of Huntsman and Romney, and ties their support of science to their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.