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GOP presidential hopefuls dance around climate change

Republican presidential candidates steer away from anything suggesting government action on climate change, some – Pawlenty and Gingrich – reversing earlier positions. Romney says the problem is real, but offers no solutions. That alone has raised conservative ire.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., June 13. Gingrich used to be a strong supporter of efforts to control climate change, but now casts doubts on the seriousness of the problem. Romney acknowledges the problem, but offers few remedies.

Jim Cole/AP

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There was a time when Republicans were at the forefront of efforts to investigate – maybe even do something about – the impact of human activity on global climate.

John McCain was an early and persistent supporter of cap-and-trade efforts to reduce the greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) associated with climate change. So was Newt Gingrich, who went on to make a YouTube video ad – with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, no less – where he said, “Our country must take action to address climate change.”

Now, Republican presidential hopefuls seem to be racing in the opposite direction – disavowing their past support for policy measures on climate – even any sense that there’s a problem to be addressed.

As Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty signed a state greenhouse gas law limiting emissions, led a regional climate partnership with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and he supported cap-and-trade. Since then, he’s flip-flopped.

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