One thing that Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have in common: These GOP presidential contenders all are running away from their past positions on global warming, driven by their party's loud doubters who question the science and disdain government solutions.
All four have stepped back from previous stances on the issue, either apologizing outright or softening what they said earlier. And those who haven't fully recanted are under pressure to do so.
It's an indicator of a shift on the issue among conservative Republicans, who have an outsized influence in the party's presidential primary elections. Over the last few years, Gallup polling has shown a decline in the share of Americans saying that global warming's effects have already begun — from a high of 61 percent in 2008 to 49 percent in March. The change is driven almost entirely by conservatives.
It's a marked turnaround for a party that just three years ago gave its presidential nomination to Sen. John McCain, who long has supported cap and trade to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and who campaigned on the issue even though it put him on the same side as his opponent, Barack Obama.
In fact, the whole idea of a market to trade pollution credits came from the Republican Party. It emerged in the late 1980s under the administration of President George H.W. Bush as a free-market solution to the power plant pollution that was causing acid rain. It passed Congress nearly unanimously in 1990 as a way to control emissions of sulfur dioxide.
The exponential growth of humans over the past two centuries has gone hand in hand with an exponential use in carbon-based energy resources and an exponential increase in the number of pollutants thrown into the atmosphere. To think that this is having no effect on the environment is silly, of course, but many people mainly just don't want to have to pay for the mess we have made. This is not helped by the fact that people point to cold winters and say that this must prove that there is no such thing as "global warming." NASA has suggested that it prefers "global climate change" to global warming and that is probably good advice to follow. It won't change the minds of people who just don't want to own up to the damage we humans are doing to the environment, but it might help steer the conversation to what is really happening.