Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Climate change: What did Romney believe and when did he believe it?

By Dan Farber

Two days ago (July 31, 2012), I posted documentation about Romney’s views about climate change.  Today, I want to discuss where he’s been consistent and when he has changed course.

What’s causing climate change? Romney has been consistent in saying that the climate is changing. In terms of the reasons, however, he’s been cautious, hedging to varying degrees since the time he entered public life.  But he’s usually said that human activities are probably contributing to climate change, and sometimes he’s dropped the “probably.”

The most striking exception to his usual stance came last October, when he was trying to fend off conservative challengers. That’s when he said, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”  Now that he has the nomination in the bag, there’s some evidence that he’s jettisoning this climate skepticism again.

What should we do about climate change? In terms of remedies for climate change, it seems clear that he supported cap-and-trade vigorously until December, 2005, when he shifted position almost overnight after getting pushback from the business community.

At almost exactly the same time, he announced his presidential ambitions.  Maybe that’s just a coincidence.

Since 2005, he has argued that the U.S. should not regulate carbon until there’s a global agreement, but instead should support research into renewable energy.  That’s roughly the position of the Bush Administration by the end of his presidency, after flirting with climate skepticism earlier on.

Assuming he sticks with it, Romney’s post-2005 position is not going to satisfy those of us who believe the climate scientists about the urgency of addressing climate change. It’s also not going to make his conservative base very happy. But it may be his best political option in terms of looking reasonable to moderates while fending off any open revolt on the Right.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.