It wasn’t that long ago that Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman turned the spotlight on his belief that global warming is real with a tweet aimed at differentiating himself within the crowded GOP primary field.
“I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” Huntsman wrote on Twitter in late August. “Call me crazy.”
But when the former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah faced a crowd of bloggers at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, he seemed to have softened his stance on the issue.
Asked if he believed that man was responsible for global warming, Huntsman waffled: “I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, nor am I a physicist, but I would defer to science ... and I would say the scientific community owes us more.”
Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller said Huntsman’s comments were “consistent with his view that he trusts the body of science on global warming, but there’s not global consensus and we can’t disarm or hurt our job creators since this is a global problem.”
It was a striking departure, however, from the boldness of his “call me crazy” tweet -- and one that sparked a set of follow-up questions.
Does he support the U.S. pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17% by 2020?
“Before we start setting goals going forward, I think we need to kind of step back and make some effort to make sure that people are on the same page, from a scientific standpoint,” he said, arguing that unilaterally reducing emissions “might debilitate economic recovery in this country, or hobble job creators.”
(That comment echoes what he told Time magazine in May: “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago. Much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”)
Asked if he was being inconsistent after having said in August that Republicans would find themselves “on the wrong side of science” if they took a position that runs counter to the consensus determined by the National Academy of Science that man is contributing to global warming, Huntsman dodged the question.
“I think the onus is on the scientific community,” Huntsman said, referring to “questions,” like the leaked e-mails from Britain’s University of East Anglia, which led to allegations that the case for man-made climate change had been overstated.
“I tend to defer to those who do it for a living, and I say I’d be prepared to take it out of the political milieu and put it in the scientific milieu,” he said, adding that “there’s probably more debate yet to play out.”