The gold medal for climate flip-flopping goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who now calls cap-and-trade a “disaster” three years after endorsing it

Anti-science ideologues have increasingly made opposition to bipartisan action on global warming a litmus test for Republicans seeking national office (see “Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 1: Conservatives vow to purge all members who support clean energy or science-based policy” and “Part 3: RNC Chair Steele withdraws support for Rep. Kirk over his vote on climate and clean energy bill“).  Apparently this litmus test doesn’t just include embracing ideological positions on policy, but also on science.

The best example of that is Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who is widely seen as a top-tier candidate for the 2012 presidential nomination.  Pawlenty already earned a “Full Flop” from PolitiFact because of his complete reversal of position on cap and trade policy “” from strong support to strong opponent.  As Think Progress reports, he completed the reversal of his stance on global warming yesterday on Meet the Press:

When asked by NBC’s David Gregory if climate change is real, the former champion of strong climate action questioned “how much of it is man-made,” charging climate scientists with “data manipulation and controversy.” He then said a cap-and-trade system of market-based limits on global warming pollution would be a “disaster“:

The climate is obviously changing, David. The more interesting question is how much of it is man-made and how much is as a result of natural causes and patterns. Of course, we have seen data manipulation and controversy, or at least debate within the scientific community. . . . And the way you address it is we should all be in favor of reducing pollution. We need to do it in ways that don’t burden the economy. Cap and trade, I think, would be a disaster in that regard.

Watch it:

Pawlenty’s charge of “data manipulation” is based on the libelous claims of fossil-fueled conspiracy theorists. Like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Pawlenty was one of the nation’s chief Republican champions of cap and trade until recently, but now is mimicking Sarah Palin instead.

In 2007, Pawlenty supported a cap-and-trade system to reduce Minnesota’s global warming pollution by 80 percent by the year 2050. “Maybe we can lead them,” Pawlenty then said about Congress passing cap and trade, “or even shame them into action. It’ll become de facto national policy.”


GREGORY: Is climate change real?

PAWLENTY: The climate is obviously changing, David. The more interesting question is how much of it is man-made and how much is as a result of natural causes and patterns. Of course, we have seen data manipulation and controversy, or at least debate within the scientific community.

GREGORY: Three years ago you said anyone who questions it is not right.

PAWLENTY: There is no question the climate is changing. The more interesting question is how much of that is man-made versus natural causes. And the way you address it is we should all be in favor of reducing pollution. We need to do it in ways that don’t burden the economy. Cap and trade, I think, would be a disaster in that regard. The real breakthrough here is transformative technologies, moving forward with nuclear, moving forward with the technologies that will give us batteries to move forward with fuel cell technology or hybrid technology for battery-powered cars. We also need to have an appreciation for clean coal.

JR:  How far has Pawlenty fallen from bipartisan supporter of climate action to right-wing ideologue?  Click here to listen to radio ad that he made with Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ), two years ago, for Environmental Defense (!) urging Congress to take immediate action on global warming.

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17 Responses to The gold medal for climate flip-flopping goes to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who now calls cap-and-trade a “disaster” three years after endorsing it

  1. Dana says:

    Not the least bit surprising. As you note, Pawlenty wants to be president, and you can’t appeal the Republican base (Tea Party) without being an anti-science global warming denier.

    It’s the same reason McCain has flip-flopped on the issue. He’s been moving further and further to the right since it became clear a teabagger would oppose him in the primary this year. It’s a sad state of affairs for the Republican Party these days. They have the right-wing media to thank for their party’s decline.

  2. Richard Brenne says:

    In addition to the obvious dangers to all future generations, what are the scenarios you (any CP reader) see where the teabagger-conservative-Republican Party could also prove dangerous in our own generation?

  3. Chris says:

    I can hope and wish that this is a fake flip-flop in order to infiltrate the anti-science camp and then pull another switcheroo…but, the likelihood of that is somewhere between slim and none, and i’m taking the “none” side of the over / under.

  4. Fire Mountain says:

    Amazing the way politicians lusting for the big house and the big airplane can twist themselves around. Used to have some respect for Pawlenty. No more now that he has contorted himself into the perfect whore. Bend over, Tim. Assume the position.

  5. mike roddy says:

    I can remember when Republican senators acted independently on all kinds of issues, including wars, pollution regulations, and civil rights. A bad virus seems to have engulfed them since those days. The causes are cowardice and stupidity more than ambition. This is going to bite the Republicans, if maybe not for a few more years.

  6. toby says:

    Yes, it seems that if Glenn Beck and Rush Lumbaugh are agin’ it, then no one in the Republican Party is for it, even policies they once supported.

  7. MarkB says:

    I think every Republican planning on running for president in 2012 or facing a primary fight in 2010 is going to shift far to the right. It certainly happened with McCain. Once praised for his “Maverick” image pre-2007, he quickly renounced his opposition to the Bush tax cuts and shifted hard right on many issues, never looking back. Facing a primary battle, he’s doing the same.

    As Mike Roddy says, it wasn’t always like this.

    “A bad virus seems to have engulfed them since those days.”

    I’m thinking the virus begins with Republican voters. As a whole, they have gradually become cult-like extremists.

    One question: when did obstructionism become a winning political strategy? Has it always been like this? Clearly, saying “no” to everything is helping Republicans gain ground in polls this year. One would think that independent-minded U.S. voters would be turned off by this sort of political posturing.

  8. Barry says:

    Can you imagine how embarrassing and demeaning it must be to be a knowledgeable and well-educated Republican politician these days?

    First you have to put on the Limbaugh tutu and Beck dunce cap and dance in front of the class saying how very wrong you were to think all those big nasty complicated thoughts. Second you have to beg for the conspiracy-movement seal of approval by saying you are truly reformed and have been properly re-educated to their way of viewing the world.

    And it isn’t the general Republican voters (what is left of them) that is driving this humiliating lap dancing…it is the Republican primary voters…the subset of them whipped to conspiracy frenzy and fear by partisan attack media.

  9. PSU Grad says:

    I’m going to a theory that may make sense only to me. It involves the changes in our societal thinking from when I was a kid until now. OK, I’ve adjusted for youthful perceptions, but on the whole it still makes sense.

    When I was a kid, the WW2 generation were the “adults”. They’d gone through something together, whether over there or over here. Many of them sacrificed various things toward a greater common purpose.

    Then came Vietnam. To get out of that war, all you had to do was go to college. And if you look at some of our most fervent war (any war) hawks, many of them avoided the draft through just that mechanism. Yes, they believed in the cause, but didn’t sacrifice anything for it, and weren’t asked to do so. I’m finding that framework has followed many baby boomers throughout their lives.

    Which brings us to 9/11. The country was in a state where many of us would have sacrificed plenty for a greater common purpose. And what was asked of us? Nothing. OK, maybe go shopping. I’ve spoken with troops who returned from Iraq with this strange sense that nobody cared, that everyone was living their lives as though nothing unusual was going on in the Persian Gulf. There was no sense that we had troops fighting overseas, other than maybe waving a flag and putting a magnet on your car.

    Which brings us to climate change (among other issues, just name it). There’s NO sense at all of the need for any kind of sacrifice or the need to do anything differently. The easiest way for everyone to avoid any sacrifice at all is to simply deny a problem exists. Or just twist everything into a pretzel where nothing gets done and everyone just gets confused, throws up their hands, and continues on with their lives.

    We no longer have adults, but warring tribes. And, short of some cataclysmic event where nobody can either deny, obfuscate or avoid their way around it, I see no solution.

  10. prokaryote says:

    Firstoff, at least he adapt – better late than never. Washington should reevaluate their approach on the case now. Skip Cap & Trade and move on – the next step is obviously a tax on greenhouse gases.

    Feb 2009
    Under the cap-and-trade formula, which has considerable momentum in Washington, the government would set a ceiling on how much carbon dioxide could be emitted into the atmosphere each year. It would then give or sell permits that companies would be allowed to trade to meet their limit. Emitting carbon dioxide at present involves no penalties in the United States, meaning that companies have little incentive to curb their pollution.

    Mr. Dolan, a senior vice president at Exxon, said that a carbon tax would be simpler and less subject to manipulation than a trading system. “A carbon tax reduces policy risks for businesses and investors in a way that cap-and-trade schemes do not,” Mr. Dolan said during his address at the industry conference, organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm.

    “In addition,” he said, “by reducing other taxes — such as income or excise taxes — we can make a carbon tax revenue-neutral and offset the impact of higher taxes on the economy.”

    Jul 2009
    Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel From Algae

    Since taking over as Exxon’s chairman in 2006 from Mr. Raymond, who pooh-poohed fears of global warming and branded environmental activists ”extremists,” Mr. Tillerson has tried to soften Exxon’s public stance on climate change.

    ”We recognize that climate change is a serious issue,” Mr. Tillerson said in a 2006 interview, pointing to a company report that acknowledged the link between the consumption of fossil fuels and rising global temperatures. ”We recognize that greenhouse gas emissions are one of the factors affecting climate change.”

    On July 14, 2009, Exxon announced an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by J. Craig Venter.

    The agreement could plug a major gap in the strategy of Exxon, the world’s largest and richest publicly traded oil company, which has been criticized by environmental groups for dismissing concerns about global warming in the past and its reluctance to develop renewable fuels.

    Jan 2010
    In December 2009, it announced the $31 billion purchase of XTO Energy, a leader in natural gas production in the United States. It gained a major foothold in Iraq, the holder of the third-biggest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Africa, it bid $4 billion for a major field off Ghana. It approved a multibillion-dollar project in Papua New Guinea to export gas to China and Japan.

    The plan follows Exxon’s longstanding strategy of investing during market declines.

    Actualy i have no idea what exxon is up to, they seem to flip flop aswell.
    They should use their money now and invest in renewables and carbon neutral and bio energy carbon storage – biochar facilities.

    The future of the business is at stake guys! Where is Rothshild’s preassure on Tillerson?

  11. Stuart says:

    I wish TPaw would open his eyes to the changes we are already seeing here in MN. Hey Tim – if climate change is bunk, why is Lake Superior warming 1 degree C per decade since 1979? Why has the northwestern moose herd collapsed and the northeast herd in decline? Why are Asian Tiger mosquitoes appearing in the Twin Cities? etc. etc. etc.

    But he has to appeal to the anti-science crowd, and the funny thing about it is the real wingnuts will never accept him and the few moderates left in the GOP will see the naked pandering for what it is.

    I will enjoy watching his campaign crash and burn in 2012.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    These comments somehow reminded me of a book with a title somethng like “The N natiions of the United States”, where N is 8 or so.

    The point is we now longer have the unity of opinion enjoyed when there were fewer of us and we were all more naive about climate (and many other matters).

  13. prokaryote says:

    EPA to soften CO2 requirements on industry
    The EPA was responding to a letter sent last week by Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, and senators from other energy states that expressed concerns about the impact on U.S. workers and businesses owners of EPA rules that would cut output of the gases from the heavy industry plants.

    On Monday, Rockefeller said EPA’s overture was “good progress.”

    Nonetheless, he said he would craft legislation to “provide Congress the space it needs” to consider a “workable” climate policy that “will protect jobs and stimulate the economy.”

    Sources on Capitol Hill were anticipating Rockefeller could introduce a bill imposing a temporary pause, possibly two or three years, for EPA to issue carbon emission-reduction regulations.

    “EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications on clean coal state economies and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

  14. Walt says:

    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir”?



  15. prokaryote says:

    Scientific research labs and institutions are held accountable for what they publish and the media will actually criticize them for any mistakes. They simply couldn’t get away producing and publishing anything near as low quality as the SPPI analysis of the CRU emails. Even the investigative team that is reviewing the CRU emails is under scrutiny.

    In contrast, none of the usual denialist outlets have any accountability. They can’t be discredited even if they deserve it. Noone writes headlines when Watt’s screws up. Same with the Heartland Institute and SPPI. Noone writes headlines when an analysis like the one the SPPI published gets spread like wildfire. The deniosphere have a lack of oversight. Anyone can say what they want of course – even really ridiculous things – but they should be justly held to account and widely discredited if they do say ridiculous things or behave badly (it’s overdue).

  16. Zan says:

    I blogged a long time ago on (scroll way down because this was forever ago) that the Jon Stewart lamented that the Cap and Trade Bill had been largely denuded of any teeth, in terms of rules that would mandate real change….Is this still the case? Not that I support T-Paw, and I do doubt it but could the de-clawing of cap/n/trade, as a result of too many GOP amendments, have been an element in T-Paw’s skepticism? Surely I’m wrong. Please enlighten.