One either wants to reduce carbon emissions or not.
About a year ago, Mitt Romney, to his credit, broke with Republican orthodoxy and acknowledged the climate crisis. "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a New Hampshire audience. "It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."
Soon after, as is his habit, Romney reversed course and announced he no longer believes what he said he believes. The Republican told a different New Hampshire audience he "thinks" the world's getting hotter, but added, "I don't know that ... [and] I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans."
"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. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry."
The response, which appears to have been a written answer provided by the Romney campaign, is a bit of a mess. He believes there's no scientific "consensus," for example, though there's ample evidence to the contrary. Romney also scoffs at the prospect of a "massive cap-and-trade bill," overlooking a minor detail: this massive cap-and-trade bill was a Republican idea, in line with what McCain/Palin proposed just four years ago.
That said, the answer isn't a total disaster -- Romney at least believes the planet is warming and that human activity "contributes" to the problem. The follow-up question is, what does he intend to do about it?
His written response touches on this, too. After explaining all the effective policies he's against, Romney presents what he calls a "No Regrets" policy.
"For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries."
That's nice, I suppose, but it's more of a wish than a policy. By Romney's reasoning, he'll support increased taxpayer spending on scientific research -- the Ryan budget plan, which Romney endorsed, cuts taxpayer spending on scientific research -- and researchers will create new technologies.
In other words, Romney's plan for global warming is to wait for scientists to come up with a solution to global warming. Take that, Al Gore.
Romney's energy plan doesn't make so much as a passing reference to the climate crisis, and as of his convention speech, he was using rising sea levels as a cheap punch-line. As we talked about last month, there are basically three categories of politicians when it comes to the global warming: (1) those who deny the problem; (2) those who recognize the problem; and (3) those who support taking concrete steps to mitigate the problem.
Romney wants folks to know he's in Group #2, and while it's marginally better than Group #1, as a practical matter, there's no real difference -- either policymakers will work to address the crisis or they won't.
Romney believes "the world is getting warmer." I'm glad. But unless he's prepared to actually do something about it, his beliefs are largely meaningless.