After waiting, to no avail, through the entire 2012 campaign for debate moderators to bring up climate change, I was thrilled last night when Jake Tapper, of CNN, posed a question on the subject to Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Chris Christie.
In case you missed the debate, I’ve pasted the discussion, as it appeared in The Washington Post, below.
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TAPPER: We received a lot of questions from social media about climate change.
Senator Rubio, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, reminds us that when Reagan was president he faced a similar situation to the one that we’re facing now. There were dire warnings from the mass consensus of the scientific community about the ozone layer shrinking.
Shultz says Ronald Reagan urged skeptics in industry to come up with a plan. He said, do it as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right. The scientists were right. Reagan and his approach worked.
Secretary Shultz asks, why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?
RUBIO: Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do. We’re not going to…
TAPPER: I’m citing George Shultz.
RUBIO: Well, and I don’t — he may have lined up with their positions on this issue. But here is the bottom line. Every proposal they put forward are going to be proposals that will make it harder to do business in America, that will make it harder to create jobs in America.
Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida, or anywhere across this country cannot afford it.
So we are not going to destroy our economy. We are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather, because America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely.
But America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is. And they’re drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of.
So the bottom line is, I am not in favor of any policies that make America a harder place for people to live, or to work, or to raise their families.
TAPPER: Governor Christie, you have said that climate change is real, and that humans help contribute to it. Without getting into the issue of China versus the United States, which I understand you’ve talked about before, what do you make of skeptics of climate change such as Senator Rubio?
CHRISTIE: I don’t think Senator Rubio is a skeptic of climate change. I think what Senator Rubio said I agree with. That in fact we don’t need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem.
Look at what we have done in New Jersey. We have already reached our clean air goals for 2020. And when I was governor, I pulled out of the regional cap and trade deal, the only state in the Northeast that did that. And we still reached our goals.
Why? Because 53 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. We use natural gas. We use solar power. We’re the third-highest- using solar power state. You know why? Because we made all of those things economically feasible.
I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound.
We have proven we can do that in New Jersey. Nuclear needs to be back on the table in a significant way in this country if we want to go after this problem.
TAPPER: Just for the record, I was citing Secretary of State George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state who I don’t think anybody would call him left-wing.
CHRISTIE: I understand. No, no, listen, everybody makes a mistake every once in a while, Jake, even George Shultz. And if that’s truly a representation of what he believes we should be doing, then with all due respect to the former secretary of state, I disagree with him.
RUBIO: Jake, you mentioned me and called me a denier. Let me say, climate change…
TAPPER: I called you a skeptic.
RUBIO: OK. A skeptic. You can measure the climate. You can measure it. That’s not the issue we’re discussing. Here is what I’m skeptical of. I’m skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make, because I know the impact those are going to have and they’re all going to be on our economy.
They will not do a thing to lower the rise of the sea. They will not do a thing to cure the drought here in California. But what they will do is they will make America a more expensive place to create jobs.
And today with millions of people watching this broadcast that are struggling paycheck to paycheck that do not know how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of this month, I’m not in favor of anything that is going to make it harder for them to raise their family.
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At this point, a number of the candidates tried to jump in with their responses. Although Tapper was ready to move on, Governor Scott Walker broke in and spoke over him.
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TAPPER: I want to go another question right now.
(CROSSTALK) WALKER: … a lot of those people, though, and I’m going to echo what Senator Rubio just said. This is an issue where, we’re talking about my state, it’s thousands of manufacturing jobs. Thousands of manufacturing jobs for a rule the Obama administration, own EPA has said will have a marginal impact on climate change.
So we’re going to put thousands and thousands of jobs in my state, I think it’s something like 30,000 in Ohio, other states across this country, we’re going to put people — manufacturing jobs, the kind of jobs that are far greater than minimum wage, this administration is willing to put at risk for something its own EPA says is marginal (ph)…
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.
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Once again, most of the candidates tried to respond. Senator Rand Paul was able to speak above the others, but Tapper cut him off.
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TAPPER: I’m turning to…
PAUL: If you want a skeptic — if you want a skeptic, Jake, I will happily jump into that briar patch. If you want a real…
TAPPER: …I’m turning to another — I’m turning to another issue right now.
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Tapper cut off the discussion because he wanted to save time for questions about who each candidate would put on a $10 bill in place of Alexander Hamilton and what they would want their Secret Service codenames to be.
For now, I want to set aside the substance of what Rubio, Christie, and Walker said, and simply ask the following question: When the news media give climate change such short shrift, is it surprising that the public underestimates the gravity of the environmental challenges we face?