Where The Top Six GOP Presidential Candidates Come Down on Climate Change
Policy + Politics

Where The Top Six GOP Presidential Candidates Come Down on Climate Change

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

While President Obama was concluding a two-day stint at an international climate summit in Paris on Tuesday where he and other world leaders suggested that the fate of the planet was hanging in the balance, the GOP controlled House was considering measures that would strike down Environmental Protection Agency rules on reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

Prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail are skeptical of a large body of scientific evidence that the earth’s temperature is rising dangerously primarily because of industrial carbon emissions. They have denounced Obama’s Clean Power initiative to slow the rate of growth of emissions as another example of executive overreach that will kill jobs and undermine the economy.

Related: Obama: climate change an economic, security imperative

"I don't think we're out of step with public opinion wanting jobs, wanting economic growth, weighing the costs and the benefits," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters. Billionaire Donald Trump, the current Republican presidential frontrunner, on Monday berated Obama from calling climate change one of the greatest existential threats to the U.S. and the rest of the world.

"I think one of the dumbest statements I've ever heard in politics -- in the history of politics as I know it, which is pretty good, was Obama's statement that our No. 1 problem is global warming," Trump said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Related: Climate Summit: Can Obama Convince 130 Countries to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

As Paul Waldman of The Washington Post noted yesterday, nowhere else in the world is there a political party representing half the electorate that seems so “adamantly opposed to doing anything to address climate change.”

Only a few GOP presidential candidates – such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former New York governor George Pataki -- have declared that climate change is a huge problem that needs action. But they are so far behind in the polls that few are listening to their pleas.

Trump and the other top tier Republican candidates are primarily global warming skeptics who are unwavering in their opposition to tough government regulations on industrial polluters who are contributing mightily to the problem.

Here is where the top six GOP presidential candidates stand on the issue:

Related: Obama: This May Be ‘The Last Generation’ That Can Stop Climate Change

Donald Trump - The billionaire real estate mogul has long scoffed at scientists’ warnings of the high risks of climate change and ridiculed President Obama’s major push in the U.S. and overseas to try to ratchet down global greenhouse gas emissions.

In September, Trump told CNN, “I believe in clean air, immaculate air, but I don’t believe in climate change.” He has written off extreme weather patterns as simply the vagaries of weather. On Monday, he called Obama’s assertion that global warming is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. the “dumbest things” ever said. Then yesterday, he complained that all Obama wants to talk about is “climate change,” during an interview with Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Daily.

Related: Obama Warns of Costly Public Health Crisis Spurred by Climate Change

Ben Carson - The retired neurosurgeon is another skeptic who has directly challenged climate-change science, saying that “There’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on,” and that “as far as I’m concerned that’s irrelevant.”

Carson, who enjoys broad appeal among evangelical Christians, denounced the use of climate change as “an excuse not to develop our God-given resources.” He is a severe critic of Obama’s federal regulations for cracking down on industrial carbon emissions. And he argues that the Environmental Protection Agency “should be told to work in conjunction with business, industry and universities” to find the most “eco-friendly” ways of developing our natural resources.

Related: Obama and Critics Battle Over Climate Change Costs

Marco Rubio - The Florida senator took a hard line last year against climate change science, complaining in an interview with ABC News that scientists had been highly selective in choosing a “handful of decades of research” as evidence of a longer-term trend – and blaming it almost entirely on manmade emissions.

“I do not agree with that,” he declared.

He softened his stand a little in April, when he told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” – somewhat nonsensically, “I believe climate is changing because there’s never been a moment when the climate is not changing.” But regardless of the cause, Rubio declared during the Republican presidential debate in September, “We’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government we’re under wants to do” with job-killing regulations.

Related: Did Kasich Just Do an About-Face on Climate Change?

Ted Cruz - The freshman Texas senator and darling of the GOP’s right wing rarely minces his words, especially on the topic of climate change. Last August, Cruz insisted in a speech that facts don’t support climate change and that “power-hungry politicians” like Obama are using it as an excuse to control the lives of the American people.

“If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there’s been zero recorded warming,” Cruz told a group of conservative said a speech to 450 donors to the political network organized by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. “The satellite says it ain’t happening.”

Cruz insisted that government engineers were doctoring the data to falsify changes in the climate. “They’re cooking the books,” he told the audience in California. “They’re actually adjusting the numbers…. Enron used to do their books the same way.”

Jeb Bush - As is so often the case with the former Florida governor, Bush has struggled to enunciate clear-cut views on climate change, and what ought to be done about it.

Over the past couple of years, Bush has taken a number of nuanced positions on climate change, although each time he voiced skepticism about the extent of the problem – and the role of industry in exacerbating the situation.

"The climate is changing; I don’t think anybody can argue it’s not. Human activity has contributed to it," Bush told Bloomberg BNA. But in May he said it is “arrogant” to claim that the science on the issue is settled, an argument he has been using since 2011.

Then in June, he declared, “The climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not. That was followed in August by his statement, “I don’t think it’s the highest priority I don’t think we should ignore it, either.”

Fiorina Takes on Trump in a Brave Battle of the Sexes

Carly Fiorina - The former Hewlett-Packard CEO concedes there is a problem, but insists that U.S. efforts to combat climate change should be approached through technological innovation and not regulations.

“Here we have a bunch of liberals and people in the EPA who are willing to sacrifice other people’s lives, other people’s livelihoods at the altar of their ideology,” she told Fox News.

Fiorina has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of an international climate change agreement -- like the one being hammered out in Paris -- because “we will not have a harmonized regulatory regime.”