Count us among those who were surprised in early June when Mitt Romney came out officially as a lonely global warming believer in a climate-change denying GOP field. Since then, the mercurial frontrunner has had to rebuff a broadside launched by the Rush Limbaugh conservative base and tacitly accept praise (a kiss of death) from Al Gore on his sensible position. So Mitt's campaign, eager only to focus on jobs-related issues, appears to be minimizing the matter.
Last Thursday, in town hall held in Derry, New Hampshire, Romney argued that carbon emissions shouldn't be regulated as pollutants by the Environmental Protection Agency. The candidate's admission that "I don't think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies" was caught on tape by Think Progress and, yesterday, Politico reignited debate about his limited climate change support. The remark also revived the long-running liberal charge that Mitt Romney paradoxically believes in global warming yet won't do anything to help combat it.
In reaction to yesterday's debate, the Romney campaign asked Politico to change an "of" in the often used Romney global warming quote on June 3rd to an "and" in order to clarify on his take on climate change. From Politico this morning:
The offending quote: "I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants, of greenhouse gases, that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you're seeing."
Romney's campaign said that rather than "of," the candidate had said "and."
So the full quote reads like this: "I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you're seeing."
As Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo noted prior to the correction, his two climate change remarks are technically consistent:
His quote about carbon doesn't exactly reverse this position: he was very specific in saying carbon is not a direct threat to people's bodies in the sense that breathing it won't kill you. But scientists have clearly identified it as a massive indirect threat in that it causes climate change, which threatens millions of people around the globe with effects ranging from drought to rising seas.
Keeping that in mind, it's unclear what the campaign's "of" and "and" distinction accomplishes--aside from calling attention to Romney's primary-hampering global warming stance.