Here’s What a GOP Presidential Debate on Climate Change Might Be Like — Based on Actual Quotes

Jun 16, 2015 by

A GOP primary debate on climate change isn’t going to happen. But what if it did?

Photo Credit: cowardlion/Shutterstock

Moderator: A majority of Americans say they are more likely to support political candidates who promise to take action against climate change, according to a recent poll conducted by the The New York Times, Stanford University and non-profit environmental research group Resources for the Future. Overall, two-thirds of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans, said that they would support candidates who promise to do something about climate change. So I want to thank you for agreeing to be a part of this important debate on a critical topic. Americans are very curious to find out what you plan to do about climate change if you are elected president. But before we get into a policy discussion, let’s begin with a basic question and we’ll start with Senator Paul: Is climate change real?

Rand Paul: If you listen to the hysterics…you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.

Rick Perry: I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change…I don’t believe man-made global warming is settled in science enough.

Rick Santorum: I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face…All of this certainty, which is what bothers me about the debate, the idea that science is settled…Any time you hear a scientist say science is settled, that’s political science, not real science.

Jeb Bush: I think global warming may be real…It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view…The climate is changing and I’m concerned about that,” Bush responded. “But to be honest with you, I’m more concerned about the hollowing out of our country, the hollowing out of our industrial core, the hollowing out of our ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world.

Carly Fiorina: There is a lot of consensus among the scientists that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it…Climate change is a big issue.

Marco Rubio: Humans are not responsible for climate change in the way some of these people out there are trying to make us believe, for the following reason: I believe the climate is changing because there’s never been a moment where the climate is not changing. The question is, what percentage of that…is due to human activity?…I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.

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Chris Christie: There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate…When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts…because I can’t figure this stuff out.

Ted Cruz: The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened…You know, back in the ’70s — I remember the ’70s, we were told there was global cooling. And everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem. And then that faded…Climate change, as they have defined it, can never be disproved, because whether it gets hotter or whether it gets colder, whatever happens, they’ll say, well, it’s changing, so it proves our theory.

Mike Huckabee: The most important thing about global warming is this. Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it’s all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it.

John Kasich: I am just saying that I am concerned about it, but I am not laying awake at night worrying the sky is falling.

Scott Walker: Honestly, I don’t even care to discuss it.

Moderator: I’m sorry Governor, but the point of this debate is precisely to discuss your views and share them with the American people. Can you please answer the question?

Scott Walker: Well, you know I was a Boy Scout, and always thought maybe campsites should be cleaner when we leave than we found it, so I’d try to work with people that care about that issue to make sure that we have a better place when leave than when we found it.

Lindsey Graham: I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution is not a good thing…Whatever political push back I get, I’m willing to accept because I know what I’m trying to do makes sense to me…I am convinced that reason, logic and good business sense, and good environmental policy, will trump the status quo…When 90 percent of the doctors tell you you’ve got a problem, do you listen to the one? Here’s a question you need to ask everybody running as a Republican: What is the environmental policy of the Republican party? When I ask that question, I get a blank stare.

Moderator: That’s an excellent point, Senator Graham. And it leads in perfectly to our next question: If you are elected president, how will you address climate change? Let’s start with Senator Cruz.

Ted Cruz: The federal government has no business attempting to massively reorder the global economy resulting in policies that kill jobs and keep people from rising out of poverty, all in the name of a theory that can’t be proven or disproven.

Marco Rubio: If we do the things they want us to do, cap-and-trade, you name it, how much will that change the pace of climate change versus how much will that cost to our economy? Scientists can’t tell us what impact it would have on reversing these changes, but I can tell you with certainty, it would have a devastating impact on our economy.

RELATED: Climate Denial Is Immoral, Says Head of U.S. Episcopal Church

Mike Huckabee: I understand that the point of cap and trade is to force Americans to use less energy. The wrong way to do that is to mandate a reduction by companies. The effect on the American economy will be catastrophic…I would be supportive of a voluntary cap and trade that would give businesses an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to good stewardship of the environment, but this proposal punishes American businesses but does nothing to actually reduce pollution and only increases Chinese manufacturing…If companies chose to participate voluntarily [in cap-and-trade] as part of their corporate policy, then fine…[but] this kind of mandatory energy policy would have a horrible impact on this nation’s job market. I never did support and never would support it — period.

John Kasich: I believe there is something to [climate change], but to be unilaterally doing everything here while China and India are belching and putting us in a noncompetitive position isn’t good.

Lindsay Graham: If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way…The bottom line is that the solutions coming from our Democratic friends about how to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions turn our economy upside down.

Chris Christie: In order to to best deal with climate change you have to understand its causes…I’ve taken the time to develop a better understanding of the role that humans play in global warming and what impact human activities has on our climate…I’ve sat down with experts both inside the government and outside the administration in academia and other places to discuss the issue in depth…We know enough to say that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward we need to work to put policies in place that get at reducing those contributing factors.

Scott Walker: Top-down regulations and mandates from the federal government get in the way of innovation and growth…I pledge…to the American people, that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue…One of the things I’d love to see the next Congress and the next president hone in on is pulling major portions of Washington and sending it back to the states…The EPA’s a good example. Every state has an equivalent of the EPA. Every state that has it, not that they’re all perfect, but they’re much more effective, much more efficient and certainly much more accountable at the state and local level than they are in Washington.

Jeb Bush: We can continue to reduce carbon emissions by taking advantage of the abundance of natural gas…We need to restore our competitive posture, which I think our energy revolution will allow us to do, and then simultaneously…be cognizant of the fact that we have this climate change issue and we need to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions…Right now we are one of the counties that has reduced carbon emissions because of the natural gas revolution, converting from coal, and conservation — the two things that have driven a reduction in CO2 emissions…We are reducing [carbon emissions]…The rest of the world is the place, certainly in the emerging world, where you have greatest challenges.

Carly Fiorina: Decisions on climate revolve around energy production and consumption, which in turn have implications in such vital areas as job growth, innovation, global air quality, grid maintenance and power generation. These are not small considerations. When discussing climate, scientists may agree that some policy change is warranted, but they also agree that action by a single state or nation will make little difference. China and India are the biggest and third-biggest producers, respectively, of carbon dioxide emissions, and their leaders were absent from the recent U.N. Climate Summit. At a time when American families are still recovering from joblessness and the recession, should the United States commit to an energy policy that puts U.S. jobs, and the economy, at risk?

Rand Paul: All I ask for is that the solution has to be a balanced solution and you have to account for jobs and jobs lost by regulation…I don’t think we really want a commander in chief who’s battling climate change instead of terrorism.

Moderator: Thank you all for sharing your views on climate change with the American people. As we end tonight’s debate, I would like to borrow a line from CBS News anchor and presidential debate moderator Bob Schieffer, who always closes debates with the words of his mother: “Go vote; it’ll make you feel big and strong.” Good night.

Reynard Loki is AlterNet’s environment editor.

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