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Al Gore says Republicans seeking the White House in 2016 are in a bind on climate change.

Asked if it would hurt the GOP nominee to be a climate skeptic or advocate against taking action on global warming, Gore replied: "Oh, yes. Definitely."

"In a general election? At the national level, where moderate voters hold the balance? It would be extremely harmful to a Republican candidate," Gore told National Journal in an interview Wednesday.

But Gore doubts that a "pro-climate" Republican can get the GOP nod, because "carbon polluters and anti-government extremists control many of the state primaries, if not most."

Gore's comments arrive as potential 2016 Republican White House candidates are beginning to stake out turf on climate change and energy.

In a pair of appearances in Washington on Tuesday, Louisiana's GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal called for dismantling EPA's carbon-emissions rules while arguing it's still unclear whether--despite what the vast majority of scientists say--human activities are now largely driving climate change.

Yet Gore believes the national politics have shifted even since the 2012 election cycle. That year, Mitt Romney attacked EPA regulation and used his nomination acceptance speech to openly mock President Obama's 2008 vow to tackle global warming. (Obama, for his part, didn't emphasize his climate platform on the stump but has made it a second-term priority.)

"[A] lot of things have changed even since Mitt Romney ran. The prominence of the climate-related extreme weather events has caused millions of people to look at their hole cards to examine what the options really are . . . [lawmakers'] constituents are profoundly affected by this. As Bob Dylan sang, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," said Gore, speaking in New York City on the sidelines of his annual "24 Hours of Reality" multimedia event on climate change.

Gore points to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast just a week before the 2012 election, as well as extreme weather elsewhere in the nation. And there are other forces at play that are changing the politics of climate change, he argues.

"[T]to some extent, the fact that solar [photovoltaic] technology has come down so dramatically in price, you get these Republican legislatures voting against the Koch brothers and ALEC-sponsored legislation to try to hold solar back," Gore said.

"So, the fact that Mother Nature is answering the question about the reality of the climate crisis, and the technology businesses are answering the question of whether or not we can really solve it if we put our minds to it, and because individual voters now see that they can reduce their electricity bills by putting solar panels on their roof, it is a different situation," he added.

Right now, the center of gravity in GOP ranks is strongly against emissions curbs, and skepticism of human-induced global warming is common. Capitol Hill Republicans are continuing their assault on EPA climate regulations--the House is slated to approve an energy bill this week that would block EPA's carbon-emissions standards for new and existing power plants.

The former vice president, however, points out that it wasn't all that long ago that "Republican nominees have portrayed themselves as pro-climate at the national level." In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush backed restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants, but he reversed course shortly after taking office. Sen. John McCain called for a cap-and-trade program during his unsuccessful 2008 White House campaign.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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