GOP presidential candidates who had generally accepted the scientific consensus on climate change have said recently that it is unclear how much, if at all, humans are contributing to warmer temperatures.
Shortly after a conservative website on Wednesday posted 2008 footage of Sen. Marco Rubio backing a cap-and-trade program to combat climate change, his campaign roared back with a counterattack that included an entire web page aimed at debunking the video.
Mr. Rubio’s muscular response revealed how toxic the issue of climate change has become in the Republican Party under President Barack Obama, who has sought to make reducing carbon emissions to alleviate global warming one of his signature accomplishments.
As speaker of the Florida House, Mr. Rubio did vote for a 2008 bill authorizing the state to come up with rules for a cap-and-trade plan, though he raised questions about its cost and effectiveness. A press release from the House Majority Office at the time described the bill as a “responsible response to concerns about global climate change.”
But since running for U.S. Senate in 2010 as the conservative alternative to then-Gov. Charlie Crist, Mr. Rubio has questioned whether climate change is man-made, and opposed potential remedies like cap-and-trade that he says would hurt the economy.
Shifts by Mr. Rubio and some of his rivals on the issue recall an inconvenient past that many in the GOP would like to forget: Republicans, not Democrats, first championed market-based systems to control pollution, as a way to avoid more direct regulation.
Until 2008, many Republicans, including then-presidential nominee John McCain, supported cap-and-trade to address climate change. Once Mr. Obama won the White House, Republicans swiftly unified against nearly all of his initiatives, including a cap-and-trade bill that would have set limits on carbon emissions and allowed companies to trade pollution credits to comply.
Responding to what they call big-government overreach by Mr. Obama, many Republicans have moved to the right on several other issues as well, including illegal immigration, health-insurance mandates and the Common Core academic standards.
GOP candidates who had generally accepted the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have said recently that it is unclear how much, if at all, humans are contributing to warmer temperatures.
“The climate is changing—it always has, that’s not any news flash—and the outcomes of that are still not determined,” Mr. Bush said in response to a question at a New Hampshire town hall in December. “To create policies for today that will have some impact for 50 years from now is almost destined to be wrong.”