Nearly all of the Republicans running for governor next year say they don't believe in human-caused climate change.
In fact, eight of the nine declared GOP candidates say they view global warming science as an unproven theory that should no longer drive state policy. Environmental activists say the prevailing GOP view not only runs counter to the beliefs of most scientists, but also to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
The global warning debate has not yet eclipsed the economy or health care as a campaign issue, but the topic has been coming up at Republican gatherings.
The issue was raised last week during a GOP candidate forum at the State Fair. Republican State Sen. Mike Jungbauer of East Bethel proudly declared himself the number-one global warming denier in Minnesota. Jungbauer also held up a state government brochure that he had picked up at a fair exhibit.
"Global Warming and Climate Change in Minnesota, this is pure unadulterated B.S.," Jungbauer said. "It's time somebody spoke out."
Jungbauer has been speaking out for a long time against what he describes as the global warming myth. Jungbauer insists he wants to protect the environment, he just doesn't want state government using what he sees as faulty science to make policy decisions. And he's not alone.
State Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall is also downplaying climate change.
"I mean the weather changes certainly, but at the end of the day I don't believe that there's this man-made global warming that's destroying the planet and the like," Seifert said. "I've read the research and so forth, and I think people are going to have various opinions on it. I think a lot of it is theoretical."
Most of the GOP candidates say their goal is keeping energy costs down. State Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie said lawmakers have passed standards that are adding to the cost of energy and hurting the economy.
Hann said there's been too much focus on alternative energy sources, such as solar power and wind power, and not enough on traditional sources.
"The global warming debate comes into play because that is the excuse that is used to take this route, to go the alternative energy route," Hann said. "I've not been persuaded that to the extent that there is change in the climate, and there is change, that it's due to human activity. That to me is not a persuasive argument."
State representatives Tom Emmer of Delano and Paul Kohls of Victoria, former state Rep. Bill Haas of Champlin, former state auditor Pat Anderson of Dellwood and candidate Phil Herwig of Milaca, are also questioning global warming.
But one GOP candidate is not.
Leslie Davis, an environmentalist from Minneapolis and frequent candidate, said he accepts the consensus view among scientists.
Paul Aasen, executive director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said that scientific consensus is that global warming is due in large part to human activity.
"I'm certain you can always find somebody who says the world is still flat, and I'm certain we'll always be able to find people who doubt the extent or complicity of the human race with climate change," Aasen said. "But the vast majority of the scientific community is all on board saying it's real, and we have some responsibility for it."
Other environmental advocates agree. Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said candidates who do not accept the science of global warming are not in the mainstream.
Morse said the comments from GOP candidates are disappointing and concerning.
"We always take it very seriously when candidates for major statewide offices are blindly speaking against the overwhelming body of science that we have out there on a major issue that threatens the very future of our state," Morse said. "So we think we're very concerned about this, because there should be general acceptance at least of the science, and then there clearly there can be different approaches as to how we address it."
The views of the majority of Republican candidates also contrast sharply with those of their fellow GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty has backed legislative efforts to create a renewable energy standard and fund alternative fuels.
Early last year, Pawlenty voiced a nationwide radio ad sponsored by the Environmental Defense Action Fund that faulted Congress for not doing more to combat climate change.
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