That was August. Back then Jon Huntsman thought the road to the GOP nomination was as the sole “truth teller” in the race. So he was the guy who slammed Perry and the GOP for its anti-science denial: We Are “On the Wrong Side of Science and Therefore in a Losing Position.”
But now it’s December, and flat-lining Huntsman has a new observation-based theory: The way to rise to the top is by saying the most extreme things possible, as Michelle Bachmann, then Rick Perry, then Herman Cain, and finally Newt Gingrich (!) has shown.
And so we have this pathetic flip-flip to the self-defined “crazy” side. When Huntsman was asked by a conservative blogger if humans contribute to global warming, he replied:
“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 or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there’s not enough info right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall, primarily because it’s a global issue.”
Let’s see. The scientific community in the United States, as reflected by its cautious, centrist “Supreme Court,” the National Academy of Sciences, was pretty clear this year:
National Academy calls on nation to “substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions” starting ASAP: Final report warns, “Waiting for unacceptable impacts to occur before taking action is imprudent because … many of these changes will persist for hundreds or even thousands of years.”
As for what “might lie beneath all this,” see National Academy (2010) labels as “settled facts” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.” And the very latest science tells us that it’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was.
It’s worth noting just how much a flip-flop this is. Back in August, Huntsman said:
When we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.
UPDATE: Responding to criticism, Huntsman has partly unflipped his flop (see here). I’ll repost his entire remarks at the end.
But it gets even worse for Huntsman. When a reporter then asked him if this was a change in his postion, Huntsman replied that “there’s probably more debate yet to play out” in the scientific community:
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.
One university over in Scotland?
Politico, among others, notes that Huntsman is “apparently alluding to the ‘Climategate 2.0’ emails from England’s East Anglia University released last month.”
Except of course the University of East Anglia is not in Scotland or close to it. It’s in … East Anglia! And that is the “traditional name for a region of eastern England.” Duh.
Needless to say, or, I guess, needful to say, Scotland is famous for being north of England. So this wins Huntsman an “F” in geography.
It’s doubly ironic because when Huntsman was taking on Perry, he explained that the reason it is counterproductive and self-destructive for Republicans to “jettison” and “shun” science that they don’t like, is “we raise up our young people, we tell them to get a good education”:
I think we ought to be straight up and rational and stick with the facts. And when we have a body of science, listen when — you know, if you had 98 out of 100 oncologists, cancer doctors, who basically said the following course of treatment is going to be good for prostate, breast or colon cancers, we would all salute and say finally we have a consensus among the scientific community.
We raise up our young people we tell them to get a good education and tell them to move forward and solve the great challenges of today, find a cure for cancer, make the world a better place. We then get the results are willing to jettison it and to shun it? I just think that’s the wrong direction.
I’m here to tell you that a lot of people in this country, a lot of people the Republican Party I think are willing to embrace science and willing to embrace the realities that have been present around whether to surround evolution or whether its climate change. And I’m here to tell you that for us to be successful as a party, we must be a party that respects science, not one that runs from science.
Brad Johnson at TP Green points out that if we actually assume Huntsman got his geography right, then he once again got his facts wrong:
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.”
Looks like Huntsman has sold his soul to the anti-science “losing position” in a pathetic attempt to win over the anti-science crowd.
To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Season:
Why Jon, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world…. But for Scotland? Or is that “for Iowa”?
UPDATE: Politico reports, “Jon Huntsman dials back squishiness on climate change” but its kind of a two thirds dial back:
A day after he told conservative bloggers that “the scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description of explanation about what might lie beneath all of this,” the former Utah governor said he fully agrees with the scientific consensus and supports action to reverse global warming.
“Let me be very clear on this: there is no change,” he told reporters after his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”
“Is there a one percent that has a disagreement? There’s a one percent that has a disagreement,” he added. “Will those discussions continue, as they always do in the scientific community, to clear up those areas of ambiguity? I suspect so. But, as for me, I’m on the side of science on this one.”
On Tuesday, he said “there’s not information right now to formulate policies in terms of addressing it over all, primarily because it’s a global issue.”
On Wednesday, after a firestorm on blogs and in the media that described him as flip-flopping and pandering, he tried to explain that he was answering a question about whether there is a consensus among scientists.
“It was an additional comment about well, is there still an open question? I say: I know where I am … but there are others who clearly look at the one percent and see that there is more yet to be discussed and put forward,” Huntsman said.
The former ambassador to China argued Wednesday that there needs to be an international agreement on how to reduce emissions to that the U.S. does not hamper its own economy while other countries ignore the problem.
“When you have 99 out of 100 climate scientists, there’s enough there for us to say we have an established body of science. Now it would be a very good thing to coordinate that science with the other major emitters on the globe, recognizing that it is an international problem,” he said. “I don’t want to disadvantage this country during a time when we are weak economically and want to get back on our feet.”
It remains a sorry spectacle that this semi-reasonable statement (at least on the science, though not on the urgent need for action), pretzel-twisting and all, comes from precisely one GOP candidate, the one who never surged in the polls.