Romney and Climate Change

by Katrina Trinko

In Pittsburgh yesterday, Mitt Romney told a questioner, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

In an e-mail entitled “Romney Flips On Manmade Global Warming,” the Perry campaign seized on the comments. “Mitt Romney’s positions change, often dramatically, depending on the audience or location,” Perry communications director Ray Sullivan said in a statement. “Voters need to consider the fact that Romney, in one week, changed positions on manmade global warming, capping carbon emissions, and Ohio’s efforts to curb union powers.”

“This is ridiculous,” e-mails Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul. “Governor Romney’s view on climate change has not changed. He believes it’s occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn’t know to what extent. He opposes cap and trade, and he refused to sign such a plan when he was governor. Maybe the bigger threat is all the hot air coming from career politicians who are desperate to hold on to power.”

ThinkProgress, the liberal website which first reported Romney’s comments, is characterizing them as a “flip.” “Romney reversed his earlier stance on climate change pollution and rejected man-made global warming,” the site wrote. But it’s not clear that Romney rejected human being partially causing climate change in his comment. He’s been careful in past statements to say that he believe human beings contribute somewhat to climate change, but does not know by how much, and believes there are other contributing causes. For instance, in Lebanon, N.H. in August, Romney said about climate change, “Do I think we contribute to it? I don’t know by how much. … So you said it’s all caused by humans or mostly caused by humans. I don’t know if it is or it’s not. And there is a divergence of opinion on that. Do I think humans contribute to it? Yes.”

In June, Romney made similar comments, saying, “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. … I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that.”

So while Romney did not specifically mention that he believed humans are partially responsible for climate change in these comments, he has previously been careful to stress how little is known about what causes climate change and how he himself is uncertain over how much of it is caused by humans. It looks like it would have been more precise for him to have said “we don’t know fully what’s causing climate change …” and noted that he believes humans are playing some role, but this is not the first time Romney has stressed how little is known about what is causing climate change.

In reference to Romney’s remark that “spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us,” the Perry campaign highlighted the fact that Romney made Massachusetts the first state in 2005 to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.