Climate change: Where the GOP field stands

Getty Images

When federal scientists announced 2015 as the warmest year on record this week, Democrats and environmentalists responded by saying the new mark injected a sense of urgency into the fight against climate change.

Republicans, including those running for president, mostly let the announcement slip by unmentioned.

ADVERTISEMENT
GOP candidates have ripped President Obama for his efforts to tackle climate change, arguing the president should be more focused on fighting international terrorism.

The two leading contenders for the GOP nomination have taken perhaps the most skeptical views of the science behind climate change, perhaps reflecting the views of the Republican grassroots.

Here’s where the GOP field stands on climate change: 

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGlenn Beck: I was wrong about Ted Cruz The Hill's 12:30 Report Pro-Clinton super PAC asks voters to #StopTheTrumpTrain in new ad MORE

The GOP front-runner doesn’t believe humans are causing the planet to warm, arguing it amounts to “weather.”

“Unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there's weather. I believe there's change,” Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt in September. 

Trump has rejected many of the climate change policies presented by the Obama administration, including the president’s contention that climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today.

“I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today,” he told Hewitt. 

“And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.”

Ted CruzTed CruzGlenn Beck: I was wrong about Ted Cruz This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Five things to watch for at Trump-Clinton debate MORE

Like Trump, Cruz questions the science behind climate change. 

“The radical left loves attacking people as anti-science when anyone dares question their computer models on global warming,” Cruz told an Iowa audience in March. 

The Texas senator often uses statistics to try proving his point, though scientists have said the data he cites doesn't give the whole picture of a warming trend that began early in the 20th century.   

“They scream, ‘you’re anti-science,’ when someone points out, for example, that in the last 17 years, satellite data shows there’s been no warming whatsoever," he said in Iowa.

Cruz, who is battling Trump ahead of the Iowa caucuses, has opposed Obama administration policies focused on climate change, including the carbon emission rule for power plants finalized last year.

Marco RubioMarco RubioGlenn Beck: I was wrong about Ted Cruz Senate rivals gear up for debates Rubio: End of Obama's term could be 'most damaging yet' MORE

The Florida senator is seen as the GOP establishment’s best hope in the Republican primary, and his comments on climate change have differed from Trump’s and Cruz’s.

Unlike those rivals, Rubio has said that he believes in the science behind climate change. But he opposes efforts to address it in the U.S. if other countries aren’t willing to do the same thing. 

Rubio has vowed to undo President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which he said in October would “have a devastating impact on affordable energy in exchange for little to no environmental benefit.”

The Paris climate deal, he said in December, is “ridiculous,” and he questioned whether major polluters like China would be willing or able to meet their commitments under it. If not, he says, the U.S. shouldn’t work on the issue unilaterally. 

Rubio argues the United States cannot limit its economy to tackle climate change.

“We are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather, because America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely,” he said during a GOP debate in September. 

Ben Carson

Carson, who is fading in the GOP race, told the San Francisco Chronicle in September, “there is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused. Gimme a break.”

The statement earned a sharp rebuke from California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who sent the retired neurosurgeon a letter containing a United Nations report on climate science. 

“Please use your considerable intelligence to review this material,” Brown wrote in the letter. “Climate change is much bigger than partisan politics.”

A Carson spokesman told CNN later that the candidate isn’t a climate denier, but rather a “questioner,” and that “he could be persuaded.”

Jeb Bush

Bush’s position is similar to Rubio’s.

A former governor of climate change-threatened Florida, Bush says he believes the science behind climate change and mankind’s role in causing it, but he’s wary of federal intervention into the problem. 

President Obama’s climate rule, he told Bloomberg News last summer, is “irresponsible and ineffective,” and he said private-sector innovation is “the source of a lot more solutions than any government-imposed idea.”

Bush, who is struggling for traction in the GOP race, had previously pledged to end all energy subsidies, both for renewables and fossil fuels. 

Chris Christie 

Christie believes in climate change and has highlighted his work on the issue as governor of New Jersey, noting that the state has met clean air goals and expanded its use of zero-emission electricity. 

The position reflects Christie’s standing as the Republican governor of a blue state that backed Obama for president in 2008 and 2012.

But Christie has been skeptical of government policies designed to address the issue.

“We shouldn't be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate,” he said. 

“We can contribute to that and be economically sound.”

John Kasich

The Ohio governor acknowledges climate change, telling The Hill in 2012 that “I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change.”

But he has said he doesn’t “want to overreact to it,” telling an Iowa crowd on the campaign trail last year, “let me just say to you that I think there are things we can do to protect the environment. We should. But we shouldn't worship the environment.”

Ohio is a fossil fuel-producing state, and he has made a habit of highlighting the industry’s impact on employment there. 

“It’s so critical for us to be energy independent,” he said at a GOP debate earlier this month.  

“We’re getting there because of fracking and we ought to explore — because, see, energy independence gives us leverage and flexibility, and secondly, if you want to bring jobs back to the United States of America in industry, low prices make the difference.”

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina says the United States should let the energy industry innovate on its own in order to reduce carbon emissions rather than push climate change regulations. 

“The answer is innovation, and the only way to innovate is for this nation to have industry strong enough that they can innovate,” she told NBC in September.

The Paris climate change conference, she said, was “baloney,” and she doubted polluters like China would follow through on their climate commitments. 

“When the Chinese said to Obama, 'Oh we’re going to come with a deal for you, we’re going to stop increasing our global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025,' you know what they were doing?” she said. “ They were simply lifting a goal out of a five-year plan and saying 'we’ll play along.' They're not playing along.”

Rick Santorum

The former Pennsylvania senator is a skeptic of climate change whose comments run closer to Trump’s and Cruz’s. 

Appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher in August, Santorum questioned the scientific consensus on climate change, including the much-cited fact that 97 percent of scientists believe in manmade global warming. 

Beyond that, he said, he opposes the work President Obama has done on climate issues, including a limit on surface level ozone that he warned could “destroy” manufacturing jobs. 

“Let’s talk about facts: lots of things cause climate change,” he said then.

Mike Huckabee

The “science is not settled” on climate change, Huckabee told NBC in July, though in the past he has said humans need to take care of the Earth.

As president, he said his focus would be more on developing energy in the United States than confronting climate change.  

“I think one of the ways that we would really help a lot of people is to use the energy that we have until we develop the energy that isn’t economically viable,” he said.

“Climate change is maybe the wrong question: good stable energy prices and making America an exporter of energy, not just for economic reasons but quite frankly to disrupt the balance of power with Russia, Iran and the Saudis. This is a game changer and America needs to be using the resources it has.”

Rand Paul

The Kentucky senator has said humans may play a part in climate change, but not as much as nature itself. 

“While I do think that man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role,” he said in a November debate. 

“The planet’s 4.5 billion years old. We’ve been through geologic age after geologic age. We’ve had times when the temperatures been warmer, we’ve had times when the temperatures been colder. We’ve had times when the carbon in the atmosphere’s been higher. So, I think we need to look before we leap.”

Paul, whose state is a leading coal producer, has opposed Obama’s climate rules and pledged to end the Clean Power Plan if elected president. 

“The president’s often fond of saying he wants a balance solution, but, really we do need to balance both keeping the environment clean, and we will have some rules for that. We got to balance that with the economy.”