An evolution of climate speak: in their own words

over 4 years ago

"I'm not a climate scientist" used to be a common refrain, one often declared by a number of skeptical lawmakers, including some of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination to run for the nation's highest office. But the tide has shifted away from this one-time fallback position, which is good news for primary voters.

"I can't claim to fully understand all of this," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in 2011. "But when you have over 90 percent of the world's scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it's time to defer to the experts."

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, considered a long shot in the race, summed it up like this: "If I went to 10 doctors and nine said, 'Hey, you're gonna die' and one says 'you're fine,' why would I believe the one guy?"

Both candidates have a point: you can't dismiss yourself as not being a scientist, while rejecting what the scientists say.

The trend is clear: more Republican lawmakers are now acknowledging that climate change is a problem and human activity is contributing to it, with a shifting focus to what needs to be done to respond. And the newly often-touted word? Innovation.

"The answer to this problem is innovation, not regulation," says Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO and consensus winner of the second tier debate last week.

"Ultimately, there's going to be a person in a garage somewhere that's going to come up with a disruptive technology that's going to solve these problems, and I think markets need to be respected in this regard," former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told the New Hampshire Union Leader earlier this summer. "I think it's appropriate to recognize the climate is changing and invest in the proper research to find solutions over the long haul."

"All I ask for is that the solution has to be a balanced solution and that you have to account for jobs and jobs lost by regulation," said Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Highlighting the importance of technology and innovation in solving the climate problem is a positive step forward, but to date, few of the candidates have provided details around how they would incentivize climate solutions.

"When I get on the stage with Hillary Clinton," Graham said at the second tier debate last week. "We won't be debating about the science. We will be debating the solutions."

The arc of evidence suggests soon more candidates will join Sen. Graham in debating solutions.