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Romney Backtracks: ‘I Don’t Think Carbon Is A Pollutant’

By Brad Johnson  

"Romney Backtracks: ‘I Don’t Think Carbon Is A Pollutant’"

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ThinkProgress filed this report from Derry, New Hampshire.

It’s getting close to impossible to track Mitt Romney’s vacillating position on global warming. Appearing in Derry, New Hampshire, the Republican presidential candidate reversed last month’s stance on fighting greenhouse gases, telling a questioner that he didn’t think carbon emissions should be regulated as a pollutant:

QUESTIONER: Will you continue to support the EPA’s air quality standards that will protect all Americans from the burning of coal?

ROMNEY: I believe we should keep our air and our water clean. And that we don’t want to have pollutants that are interfering with our health and damaging the ability of our children to enjoy good health. So no question we have to have standards that improve the quality of our air. And I support reasonable standards. … Do I support the EPA? In much of its mission yes, but in some of its mission no. The EPA getting into carbon footprints, and… [APPLAUSE] I think we may have made a mistake, we have made a mistake is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. I don’t think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies. We can agree to disagree … My view is that the EPA getting into carbon and regulating carbon has gone beyond the original intent of the legislation. I do believe we should reduce the pollutants that harm our health.

ThinkProgress’ Travis Waldron recorded the candidate at last Thursday’s town hall. Watch it:

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Massachusetts vs. EPA in 2007 that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Before now, Romney had not publicly taken a position on the case, which was argued before the court while he was still governor of Massachusetts, the lead plaintiff in the case.

Last month, Romney told voters in New Hampshire that “it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.”

There are, of course, many ways in which greenhouse emissions are pollutants “in the sense of harming our bodies” — worsening and causing deadly heat waves, floods, storms, droughts, wildfires; exacerbating the effects of other air pollution like smog that cause asthma attacks and other respiratory distress; and encouraging the spread of parasites and disease.

“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” concluded the medical journal The Lancet in 2009.

Romney’s slogan is “Believe in America,” but he should also believe in facts.

Update

At Americablog, Kombiz Lavasany notes that while Romney was governor of Massachusetts, his administration talked about the “multiple health risks” of carbon pollution.

Update

The person who asked Romney the question, retired scientist Anthony Samsel, responds at the Mother Nature Network.

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