Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who is facing a primary challenge from former right-wing GOP congressman J.D. Hayworth — played along with Fox News host Sean Hannity’s uninformed idea that the recent snow storms in the mid-Atlantic region disprove that the earth’s climate is changing. “I think they made some movie that showed that the earth was going to freeze over as a result of global warming. I never quite understood that,” McCain said.
Yesterday, a local Arizona conservative talk radio host told McCain that “80 percent” of global warming science “is based on fraud and misinformation.” Despite having previously refuted such nonsense publicly, McCain again remained silent. Pandering to the far right, the Arizona senator later said he “never” supported capping carbon emissions:
Q: If we knew then what we know today about these scientists and this fraud, would you still be in favor of capping carbon emissions at 2000 levels?
MCCAIN: I’ve never favored it at a certain level. I’ve favored reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the good of — I mean we all know that greenhouse gases are bad! But I’ve said, in order to achieve that we have to have nuclear power as a component of it.
In fact, McCain has actually co-sponsored cap-and-trade legislation. “We need a successor to Kyoto, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner,” McCain wrote in a 2008 op-ed. And during the his 2008 presidential campaign, he delivered a major speech on his plan to address climate change. “A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy,” he said in the speech. And he specifically outlined his plan to cap carbon “at a certain level”:
McCAIN: We will cap emissions according to specific goals, measuring progress by reference to past carbon emissions. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emission…by 2020, a return to 1990 levels…and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.
This isn’t the first time McCain has tried to run to the right on this issue to fit his political objectives. During the 2008 campaign, he tried to claim that by supporting cap-and-trade, he wasn’t endorsing any “mandatory cap.” But of course, a “cap” is in fact a “mandatory” limit. The New York Times noted last week that McCain “is likely to keep his distance” from his previous support of cap-and-trade and addressing global warming, an issue he “once led” on, because of Hayworth’s primary challenge.
Ironically, during yesterday’s radio interview, McCain also said, “[The liberal media has] been accusing me of changing positions and all that. The fact is I haven’t changed them. I’ve always fought hard for the things that I believe in.”
McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan has responded saying that he “was referring to 2000” rather than the general concept of capping carbon. But the Washington Post notes that McCain had also proposed capping greenhouse gases at the 2000 level. As for McCain’s silence on the host’s global warming denial? “Those weren’t his words, those were the talk show host’s words,” Buchanan said. “He’s not going to get in an argument with a local talk show host about what he said.”