By Timothy Cama - 03/10/16 10:48 PM EST
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report Rubio Senate challenger drops out GOP wins congressional baseball game, ending 7-year losing streak MORE (R-Fla.) pushed back against proposals to fight climate change, saying there is no law that could impact global carbon dioxide emissions during Thursday's Republican presidential debate.
In one of the most lengthy exchanges on the issue in any GOP debate in the 2016 cycle, the Florida senator avoided saying whether he believes human activity contributes to climate change.
“As far as a law that we can pass in Washington to change the weather, there’s no such thing,” Rubio said Thursday in Miami. “On the contrary ... there are laws they want us to pass that would be devastating for our economy.”
The answer was prompted by CNN host Jake Tapper, who asked a question from Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado on whether Rubio would “acknowledge the reality of the scientific reality of climate change” and pledge to fight it. Regalado has endorsed Rubio.
Miami is particularly at risk due to rising sea levels, causing Regalado’s concerns.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide are the chief cause of climate change through the greenhouse effect.
But Rubio disagreed.
“Sure, the climate is changing. And one of the reasons why the climate is changing is because the climate has always been changing. There has never been a time when the climate is not changed,” he said.
Rubio said policies on climate change, like President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, are being “rammed down the throat of the American consumer,” including working families and single parents.
“And you know what impact passing those laws would have on the environment? Zero,” he said. “Because China’s still going to be polluting, and India’s still going to be polluting at historic levels.”
The Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court has put on hold while a legal challenge plays out, requires a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions by 2030.
While the effect on worldwide greenhouse gases and the prevention of climate change is minimal, the Obama administration argues that it was a key factor in getting nearly 200 countries of the world to commit to taking their own steps to cut greenhouse gases as part of last year’s Paris climate agreement, the first international climate pact to include that many countries.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticized Rubio's answer, tweeting that it is “mind boggling” that he “refuses to acknowledge or address the effects of climate change,” especially since he is from Miami.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Rubio’s challengers, chimed in to say that he believes humans contribute to climate change but that the economy and environment can both be protected.
“The fact is that you can have a strong environmental policy at the same time that you have strong economic growth, they are not inconsistent with one another,” he said.
Environmentalist groups have long complained that debate moderators in the 2016 elections have asked few, if any, questions on climate change.