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In Alaska, Doubts About Climate Change Rise With A New Politician

Alaska’s cliffhanger primary is poised to propel a climate skeptic toward the U.S. Senate, observers say, likely bolstering the number of nominations achieved by conservative candidates who challenge manmade global warming.

Republican Joe Miller, a former judge with a Yale law degree, showcased Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s past support for climate legislation, among other things, before slipping by her at the voting stations Tuesday to capture a 1,900 vote lead with several thousand absentee ballots still being counted.

Miller believes the scientific findings behind climate change are in “serious question.” That position might have benefited him when he dipped into Murkowski’s past and tied her efforts to soften cap-and-trade proposals in 2007 with aggressive Democratic climate policies this year.

The attack amounted to “corroboration” for voters that Murkowski is too willing to side with Democrats, says Dave Dittman, a Republican pollster and consultant who worked in the past with Murkowski’s father, Frank.

“Alaskans by a wide, wide margin do not believe in man-caused global warming,” he said, pointing to a recent poll by his firm finding that just 33 percent of state residents believe humans are contributing to climate change. Five percent said the planet is cooling.

Murkowski tried to temper her positions before the race. She edged away from the manmade climate issue, saying this summer that she’s unsure to what extent humans are responsible for warming. Instead, she focused on helping villagers and other Alaskans who are already feeling the effects of climate change — whether it’s naturally occurring or not.

The positioning gave Miller another avenue of attack. He put the spotlight on her political swinging. Meanwhile, he staked out the conservative acreage around the climate issue for himself.

“It’s not like this is a fringe perspective,” Miller said of challenging climate science in an interview this summer. “I don’t think anybody’s going to argue that there’s cyclical warming patterns. Are these cyclical patterns that we’ve observed over time, and the pattern that we’re in right now, is it the consequence of manmade emissions?”

“And that’s not been proven,” he added.” I think the jury’s well out on that right now.”

‘Just give me the facts’

That position is finding a home in several races around the country, as conservative candidates tap into voter uncertainty around climate change while defining it as an ideological agenda item for Democrats and their GOP allies.

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