Romney Seemingly Shifts On Climate Change

Oct 28, 2011
Originally published on October 28, 2011 4:54 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

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And I'm Melissa Block. Mitt Romney has taken political heat for changing his views on issues including abortion and health care, and today, Texas Governor Rick Perry charged him with flip-flopping on climate change, as well.

In the spotlight are Romney's comments yesterday at a fundraiser in Pittsburgh. NPR's Richard Harris has the story.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Here's what Mitt Romney had to say about global warming last year in his book, "No Apology."

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HARRIS: Romney backed up those words with actions as governor of Massachusetts by imposing some modest restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions. But yesterday, at a private event in the heart of coal country, Romney left out that bit about human activity. Here's a clip from YouTube.

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HARRIS: This new shading of language appears to push Romney farther to the right, says Anthony Leiserowitz at the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: We've seen a struggle within the Republican Party on this exact issue where, up to now, Romney and Huntsman basically took the position that climate change is happening and human caused and that something needed to be done.

HARRIS: That position of Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is backed up by scientific organizations around the world, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. But public opinion remains split. Leiserowitz says Republicans are less likely to accept that humans are contributing to climate change. Even so, overall, more than half of the American public accepts a human role.

LEISEROWITZ: And, of course, those are going to be important votes, especially those independent moderate voters who tend to think that climate change is a real problem.

HARRIS: But many voters may not care so much whether Governor Romney accepts the science of climate change. Leiserowitz says many people care more about whether he's being consistent in his views.

LEISEROWITZ: The danger for Mitt Romney is that it plays into an emerging narrative and certainly a narrative that his opponents are trying to paint him as a flip-flopper.

HARRIS: Romney's opponent Rick Perry leveled exactly that charge. In fact, it's the second time this week. Romney backtracked on a comment about an Ohio ballot measure on public employee unions. As for the charge that he flip-flopped on climate, his campaign said: ridiculous. Governor Romney still believes that human activity is contributing to climate change.

Richard Harris, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.