Pawlenty: Most global warming is natural

GOP White House hopeful Tim Pawlenty said this week that most or all climate change stems from natural causes. 

The statement puts the former Minnesota governor at odds with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who believes climate change is occurring and that humans have contributed. 

It also could help Pawlenty, who has struggled to raise his standing in polls of GOP voters, stand out to conservatives at the Iowa caucuses and other early GOP presidential contests next year. 

Pawlenty spoke about climate change in a wide-ranging interview with The Miami Herald.

Asked whether there is man-made climate change, Pawlenty replied, “there’s definitely climate change,” then said:

“The more interesting question is how much is a result of natural causes and how much, if any, is attributable to human behavior. And that’s what the scientific dispute is about.”

Pawlenty added:

It’s something we have to look to the science on. The weight of the evidence is that most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes. But to the extent there is some element of human behavior causing some of it — that’s what the scientific debate is about. That’s why we’ve seen all this back and forth between some of those prominent scientists in the world arguing about that very point.

Pawlenty's claim is at odds with the large number of prominent scientific organizations that say human activities — such as burning coal and oil — are a major driver of global warming.

The National Research Council, in a report this year, noted that climate change is “very likely caused primarily” by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

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In 2009, 18 scientific groups — including the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science — issued a joint statement on the matter.

They said that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the “primary driver” of climate change. Similarly, the federal U.S. Global Change Research Program noted in its latest assessment, in 2009, that “global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.”

The GOP field is split on climate science.

While Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said in June that he believes climate change is occurring and that humans have contributed, Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannYes, condemn Roseanne, but ignoring others is true hypocrisy Bachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate MORE (R-Minn.) has dismissed the idea that human-induced emissions are consequential.

Bachmann is running second to Romney in a number of polls, and some predict she could win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, where Pawlenty also hopes to fare well.

Pawlenty and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have both renounced their past support for cap-and-trade, a policy opposed across the board in the GOP field (click here for more on Huntsman’s views).