In an answer to one of 14 sci-tech questions posed by Scientific American and ScienceDebate.org to the two Presidential candidates, Republican Mitt Romney offered his most detailed view yet on the issue of global warming. In his answer, Romney seems to walk back his late 2011 statements “that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” and an earlier statement in which he said he thought global warming was occurring but “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”
The first part of Romney’s newly refined view on climate change reads as follows:
I am not a scientist myself, 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. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community…Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response.
Next Romney attacks President Obama’s and Congress’s efforts to address climate change through legislation and policy. Romney also offers the view that other industrialized nations, China namely, do more to fight climate change if the U.S. is to join them:
Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.
Romney goes on to lay out his firm opposition to “cap-and-trade” and advocates what he calls a “No Regrets” policy.
So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.