Romney, Obama agree: Man-made climate change is happening

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Man-made global warming is happening, President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney agreed in answers released today on the independent website ScienceDebate, but neither candidate provided specifics about what kind of future policies would be needed to slow climate change or guard against its adverse effects.

ScienceDebate, which lists the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies among its co-sponsors, has argued since 2007 to have questions about science included in a televised presidential debate. With those issues unlikely to score time during the Oct. 3 debate, ScienceDebate asked the campaigns for written responses to 14 science-related questions, including the candidates’ positions on “cap and trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change,” both at home and internationally.

Romney, who has said he opposed a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program after he took flak from opponents during the Republican primary campaign for his past support of the 10-state program, began his climate change answer with what appears to be an affirmation of the science. And his answer came in at 484 words, compared with Obama’s 181 words.

“I am not a scientist myself,” Romney said. “But my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences.”

But in his answer, Romney said debate persists within the scientific community as to “the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution and the severity of the risk.”

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human activity is a main driver of global warming. But Romney went on to say, “Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response.”

He said he would not support cap and trade or a carbon tax and endorsed “no regrets” policies that he said would limit emissions while benefiting the U.S. economy even if catastrophic climate change does not come to pass.

The Obama campaign, on the other hand, played up the president’s current actions on climate.

“Climate change is one of the biggest issues of this generation,” Obama’s campaign said in its response. “And we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

The Obama camp went on to tout policies the current administration has put in place, including stepped-up fuel economy standards for cars and trucks; investments in renewable energy as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law and other policies; U.S. EPA’s proposed rule to curb greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants; and the State Department’s role in helping to negotiate a hard-won agreement last year in Durban, South Africa, that calls for all major emitters to face the same legal obligations to cut carbon emissions by 2020.

The president’s response also pledges to “continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last,” but he does not respond to the specific question about cap and trade, a carbon tax or other policies. Nor does the answer mention the comprehensive climate change bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2009, which has been vilified by Republicans ever since as “cap and tax.”

Click here to read Obama’s and Romney’s answers.