Kasich’s ‘not proven’ climate comments stir controversy

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2015

Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich this weekend raised concerns among some climate activists by suggesting climate change is an unproven theory that shouldn’t be used to destroy jobs.

The Ohio governor, who has been seen as more moderate on environmental issues than most other 2016 GOP White House candidates, appeared to question the science of climate change during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday.

“Well, I think that man absolutely affects the environment, but as to whether, you know, what the impact is, the overall impact, I think that’s a legitimate debate,” Kasich said. “In my state of Ohio, we preciously take care of Lake Erie, we’ve reduced emissions by 30 percent over the last 10 years, we believe in alternative energy, so of course we have to be sensitive to it, but we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs based on some theory that’s not proven.”

Kasich in the past has said he believes climate change is a problem and has pushed for clean energy.

“This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere. I believe it,” the governor told a room full of Republican donors in 2012, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

“I don’t know how much there is, but I also know the good Lord wants us to be good stewards of his creation,” Kasich added. “And so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it.”

Daniel Weiss, vice president of campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, said Kasich has the “veneer of a moderate” but his position on climate change does not substantially differ from those of other Republican presidential candidates who don’t believe the science. “He’s moving to the right is what it sounds like by saying ‘we don’t know what’s causing it,'” Weiss said. “That’s wrong, we know that humans are responsible for climate change, the debate is over.”

Weiss said the only difference between Kasich and candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has said the theory of climate change is not supported by scientific data, is a nuance in tone. “There’s very little difference between Kasich and Cruz, it’s just a matter of tone,” he said. “Politicians that acknowledge climate change is real but later say they don’t know what causes it or man’s role are climate science deniers. Saying climate change is real isn’t enough.”

But Scott Milburn, a spokesman for Kasich’s presidential campaign, said in an email that the governor has in no way changed and that he has repeatedly said climate change is happening and human activity is a contributing factor. Milburn also suggested Kasich’s comments on “Meet the Press” stemmed from ongoing debates about the speed and severity of climate change.

“The governor has repeatedly said — to much criticism — that he believes climate change is happening, that human activity is contributing to it and that we must take action to respond to the problem,” Milburn wrote. “The issue of ‘how much and how fast’ is a debate for scientists that will go on in perpetuity. That’s the ‘unproven’ or ‘uncertain’ part to which [he] often refers — yesterday and also last month in New Hampshire.”

Milburn went on to tout Kasich’s environmental record, noting that the governor has taken numerous steps to protect Lake Erie, including banning oil production and vetoing legislation that would have permitted excessive water withdrawals from rivers and streams flowing into the lake. The governor also blocked attempts to eliminate Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard, Milburn said.

Kasich may face tough questions about Ohio, a coal-producing state that is home to American Electric Power Company Inc., and his position on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Weiss noted that Kasich hasn’t made his position on the EPA rule clear and last year signed legislation that imposes a two-year freeze on the state’s renewable and energy efficiency standards (ClimateWire, June 20, 2014).