What Mitt Romney is saying today about climate change is pretty much what he’s been saying all along. First, here is what he said yesterday:
Asked about global warming at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Romney said he believed the world is getting hotter and humans contribute in some way to the change — but could not judge to what extent. ”Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”
“What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to.”
In June, a day after launching his second bid for the White House, Romney caused a stir by saying he thought humans had contributed to climate change to some extent. At that time he made a call for a reduction of “emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that might be significant contributors” to climate change — a suggestion that was not made on Wednesday.
A Romney aide said the candidate has not altered his position on climate change.
Still, using additional domestic nuclear, natural gas, and other resources could have a side benefit of cutting carbon emissions, Romney said. “My view is pursue a strategy which gets us into energy independence which has as a byproduct it gets us into less CO2 emitting.”
He criticized a bill backed by President Barack Obama that would have capped carbon emissions and allowed polluters to buy and sell rights to emit carbon. ”I do not believe in cap and trade and I do not believe in putting a carbon cap” on polluting industries, Romney said.
In his book “No Apology,” Romney describes his position this way, far more directly:
I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control. … Internationally, we should work to limit the increase in emissions in global greenhouse gases, but in doing so we shouldn’t put ourselves in a disadvantageous position that penalizes American jobs and economic growth.
Romney is clearly in favor of limiting carbon emissions — at least in theory — but does not want to cripple the U.S. economy or spend trillions of dollars for “extreme and expensive measures” like cap-and-trade to do it. He mentions the work of Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg who believes “addressing the remediation of the effects of global warming [is] far more economic and far more humane than massive spending to reduce emissions.”
Romney also spends considerable time in his book explaining the pros and cons of a carbon tax-payroll tax swap, a plan favored by economist and Romney adviser Greg Mankiw and many other Republican-leaning economists. Among the positives, he says: 1) revenue neutrality; 2) higher energy prices would encourage energy efficiency; 3) industry would have a predictable outlook for energy costs; 4) profit incentives rather than government subsidies would encourage the development of “oil substitutes and carbon-reducing technologies.” And there is this:
Comparative analyses of the tax-swap plan with a cap-and-trade system have demonstrated that the tax swap is likely to be five times as effective in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and, presumably, five times as effective in reducing energy consumption.
Romney does add, however, that “a great deal of work needs remains to be done if it is to become a viable option.”
Bottom line: Romney wants to use markets and incentives to reduce carbon emissions and lower U.S. dependence on overseas oil, not net tax hikes or mandates or regulations. This is not the Rick Perry position, of course. So the issue marks an interesting contrast between the two candidates. Grover Norquist puts it this way: ”If Perry was president, one of the things I’d not worry about is a carbon tax. I’d worry about big spiders eating New Jersey first.”