Republican House candidates across the country have run hard against cap-and-trade, some of them expressing doubts in anthropogenic global warming in the process. In conservative House districts represented by Democrats, energy policy has become one of the most prominent weapons wielded by Republicans, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won enough votes from her caucus to barely pass a cap-and-trade climate bill--a bill the Senate never took up. Republican candidates have used this vote against vulnerable Democrats from Pennsylvania to Missouri, honing in on the idea that Congress has no business instituting taxes or caps on energy.
In Senate races, at least eight Republican candidates who have a shot at winning close races have either said that climate change doesn't exist or downplayed the need to confront it with legislation.
These opinions range widely.
Nevada's Sharron Angle, for instance, has called global warming a "hoax" that's based on "unscientific hysteria" on her website. Florida's Marco Rubio has said that there is "evidence to dispute" global warming, though he says he's not qualified, as a non-scientist, to give a definitive answer on the topic.
Washington's Dino Rossi has noted that temperatures are cyclical, and his campaign has said he's not sure how much humans have to do with it (which is the same position he took in 2008 when running for governor, supporting a reduction in emissions). In Missouri, Roy Blunt has said the science is not adequate.
Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, meanwhile, has simply suggested that Congress wait to confront global warming until the U.S. is richer and scientists understand it better.
Those candidates all have a solid chance of winning. Rubio has maintained a commanding lead over independent Charlie Crist Democratic Kendrick Meek; Toomey leads his Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak; Rossi is locked in a tight race with incumbent Sen. Patty Murray; Angle has held a very slim edge over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Blunt appears to be on his way to victory over Robin Carnahan.
It would certainly be wrong to call all of these GOP candidates climate "deniers." It's a lot more complicated than that. There's a large degree of "wait and see" agnosticism at play in how some of them approach the issue. As a non-scientist myself, it's a philosophical stance I can at least appreciate.
But it's safe to say that if 2010 is indeed a wave year for Republicans, both in the House and Senate, consensus on climate change will shift significantly in Congress--from a point where Democrats came up only a few Senate votes shy of passing cap-and-trade, to a point where significant climate legislation will have very dim prospects for years to come.