Sustainability & Climate Change Issue Update: The GOP, Sustainability and Climate Change

Primary season is heating up, starting with the Iowa Caucus earlier this week. It was a squeaker, that brought new possible frontrunners into the news cycle and ended some Presidential dreams. Coming into Iowa, candidates stumped on a range of issues, including sustainability and climate change. Here's where the 2012 hopefuls stand:

  • Who says your vote doesn't count? In the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney claimed victory by a margin of just eight votes. Wonder where this guy stands on climate change and sustainability issues? In October, Rick Perry released a video accusing Romney of adopting Obama-style policies on carbon emissions. While that's totally true, Perry omitted the fact that Romney later withdrew his support, citing economic concerns. Romney has criticized Obama over the government’s failed investment in the solar energy company Solyndra. But during his last presidential campaign he said he supported the $4 billion the US invested in green energy, and said he would increase it five-fold to about $20 billion a year. Additionally, as Governor of Massachusetts he launched the ($15 million) MA Green Energy Fund. A former Republican Capitol Hill energy aide has said of Romney's position on environmental issues: “It’s like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Frankly, there’s a bunch of people who are tired of getting a box of chocolates.”
  • Iowa runner-up Rick Santorum has a long record after sixteen years in Congress. Upon review, the Mother Nature Network concluded, “Santorum is nothing if not consistent — the question is whether or not you agree with him.” He has consistently supported drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and opposed environmental regulations. The former U.S. Congressman and U.S. Senator was on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on June 8. When asked about his views on climate change Santorum replied, "It's just an excuse for more government control of your life, and I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."
  • U.S. Representative Ron Paul, who came in third in the Iowa Caucus, is a cyclist, but has said “I don't ride my bike because I think I'm destroying the environment by driving my car; I ride it because it's a great way to be outdoors and enjoy the environment.” Despite that statement, he has co-sponsored bills that would offer tax breaks to Americans who commute by bicycle and use public transportation. However, Paul has said that if elected President he wouldn’t do anything about climate change because "we're not going to be very good at regulating the weather.” He does, however, think “something is afoot” with the planet.
  • In 2008, former Vice President Al Gore approached Newt Gingrich about appearing in a television ad with then Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Gingrich agreed, and appeared in the ad calling for action to address climate change. Under fire from other candidates, it’s a decision he now describes today as “the dumbest single thing I’ve done.” Today, Gingrich claims he "never favored cap and trade,” a policy where companies could buy and sell credits that allow them to put certain gasses into the atmosphere. Brooks Jackson ( says "It's true [Gingrich has] never favored the approach taken by Democrats, but he said in 2007 that he would 'strongly support' cap and trade if combined with "a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions."
  • So where do the other candidates stand? Many candidates have been outspoken on their feelings towards the Environmental Protection Agency. As Governor of Texas, Rick Perry brought a (losing) lawsuit against the EPA when the Supreme Court ruled that the organization has a duty to regulate carbon pollution. On the other hand, Jon Huntsman has never shied away from expressing his feelings that science should be leading the dicussion on climate change. In August 2011 Huntsman went as far as to criticize other GOP candidates in an ABC interview by saying, "I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position." More recently, however, Huntsman has expressed that science cannot actually give us enough definitive information to properly form policies that address climate change. While he might disagree with whether or not climate change is an actual problem - he can agree with other GOP candidates on the existence of the Enviromental Protection Agency, calling for an end to its "regulatory reign of terror".

To sum it up, it appears that most GOP candidates feel that addressing climate change and environmental regulation are things the government should be doing a lot less of.