Marco Rubio, maybe the currently best-positioned candidate to win the Republican nomination, is trying to hit a sweet spot by being deliberately evasive in answering climate change questions while denying that he's being evasive.
Rubio wants to do two things:
1. Reassure voters who think climate change is real, which includes 44% of Republicans, that he will not be a do-nothing president on this issue.
2. Reassure the denialists, ideologues, and monied interests funding the Republican Party that he will not step on their toes, their ideologies, or their pocketbooks, and that he will undertake no policies they find distasteful.
What to do? Pretend that adapting to the challenge of natural disasters, including the possibility of natural climate changes that just coincidentally, somewhat mirror the effect of human-caused change, is adequate action. He never says human-caused climate change is real - he's still doing the "I'm not a scientist" thing, just without saying the words. An example (where Rubio incorrectly refers to adaptation as "mitigation"):
SEN. RUBIO: Well, again, I mean, headlines notwithstanding, I’ve never disputed that the climate is changing. And I pointed out that climate, to some extent, is always changing. It’s never static. That’s not the question before me as a policymaker. The question before me as a policymaker is if we ban all coal in the U.S., if we ban all carbon emissions in the United States, will it change the dramatic changes in climate and these dramatic weather impacts that we’re now reading about? And anyone who says that we will is not being truthful...Members of the public not immersed in climate issues think fuzzily between "the climate may be warming naturally and we have to respond to it" and "the climate may be warming because of people and we have to respond to it". Rubio's trying to get both groups, but it's nonsense. Human-caused warming is linear and will get worse, unlike natural warming (which isn't happening anyway). What you prepare for depends on what's happening.
MR. BELKIND: The U.S. Geological Survey has warned that sea levels could rise by two feet by 2060, imperiling Florida’s coastline. How should the United States prepare itself and its citizens to deal with rising sea levels and the catastrophic flooding that is likely to follow?
SEN. RUBIO: Well, again, as I pointed out earlier, I have no problem with taking mitigation action, as we did in my time as speaker of the house. We encouraged mitigation after we were hit by five hurricanes in the summer of 2004 and 2005. And we took steps to encourage people by finding savings in their insurance programs to harden their homes against the occurrences of these storms....So I have no problem with us taking steps towards mitigation. In fact, I think that would be essential, not simply because of weather occurrences....The bottom line is that natural catastrophes have always existed. And as we build out population centers with expensive structures and vulnerable areas, we will have to take mitigation action to account for that.
Some some questions that Rubio shouldn't be allowed to run away from:
- Human-caused warming will raise sea level in Florida two feet but natural change won't. Which scenario would you prepare us for?
- Human-caused climate change that keeps getting worse is different from natural climate cycles that hit limits and go down. Which one should we be prepared for?
- Don't Americans have the right to know whether you accept the scientific consensus that we're making the climate worse?
- What's your basis for not accepting the scientific consensus? Are you a scientist, and if not then why should you choose to rely on the tiny fringe opinion instead of the consensus? Or do you deny the existence of consensus?