Huntsman Bows To Right Wing, Reverses Position On Climate Science

At an event at the Heritage Foundation, presidential candidate Jon Huntsman reversed his prior defense of climate science. Huntsman spoke to bloggers after a presentation by the fossil-industry front group Institute for Energy Research. Huntsman, who famously mocked his fellow candidates for questioning global warming in August, was asked by Heritage blogger Lachlan Markey if humans contribute to climate change. Huntsman said that the “scientific community owes us more“:

I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, nor am I a physicist, but I would defer to science . . . The scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description of explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there’s not information right now to formulate policies in terms of addressing it over all, primarily because it’s a global issue.

When TalkingPointsMemo reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro asked if Huntsman had changed his postion, he replied that there is “debate” in the scientific community, including “questions” raised “by a university in Scotland”:

I’m not a physicist, I’m not a scientist. I tend to defer to those who do it for a living. I’d be prepared to take it out of the political milieu and put it into the scientific milieu. There are questions about the validity of the science — evidence by one university over in Scotland recently.

“If there’s some interruption or disconnect in terms of what other scientists have to say, then let the debate play out within the scientific community,” he said. “I think that’s where we are. There’s probably more debate yet to play out.”

It is not clear what “university over in Scotland” Huntsman meant. The universities and colleges of Scotland have signed the Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment of Scotland, which states:

We recognise the scale and speed of climate change, and the likely effect on Scotland’s people and places, impacting adversely on our economy, society and environment. . . . We acknowledge the Scottish Government objective – to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 – to avert the worst impacts of climate change; and realise we have a role to play in this.

The signatories include all 15 universities in Scotland, plus 43 colleges: Aberdeen College, Adam Smith College, Angus College, Anniesland College, Ayr College, Banff & Buchan College, Barony College, Borders College, Cardonald College, Carnegie College, Central College, Clydebank College, Cumbernauld College, Dumfries & Galloway College, Dundee College, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh’s Telford College, Elmwood College, Forth Valley College, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow Coatridge College, Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, Glasgow School of Art, Heriot Watt University, James Watt College, Jewel & Esk College, John Wheatley College, Langside College, Lews Castle College, Moray College, Motherwell College, Newbattle Abbey College, North Highland College, Oatridge College, Perth College, Queen Margaret University, Reid Kerr College, Robert Gordon University, Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama, Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Scottish Agricultural College, Shetland College, South Lanarkshire College, Stevenson College, Stow College, The Open University in Scotland, University of the Highlands and Islands, University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Stirling, University of Strathclyde, the University of the West of Scotland, and West Lothian College.

Some representative statements from Scotland’s top universities, in case it isn’t clear that Huntsman’s “university in Scotland” doesn’t exist:

University of St. Andrews: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today.”
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot-Watt University: “The twin challenges of energy security and environmental sustainability presents the global community with little choice but to develop a low carbon future – less reliant on fossil fuels.”
University of Glasgow: “The threat of climate change to ecological systems is clearly accepted.”

Perhaps Huntsman is referring the the University of East Anglia in eastern England, whose servers were hacked and scientists smeared by climate deniers in 2009. After Rick Perry cited the Climategate conspiracy theory to question global warming in August, Huntsman eviscerated Perry. When Republicans question man-made global warming, “I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position,” Huntsman said on ABC’s This Week in August. It appears Huntsman now prefers this “losing position.”


Heritage’s Michael Gonzalez informs ThinkProgress that the think tank receives much smaller direct contributions from the oil industry than before: “For the past three years gifts from oil and oil-related companies have totaled less than half a percent of our fund-raising.”

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