The Kentucky Republican then took stock of the reality of human-induced global warming with a resounding maybe. “While I do think that man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role. The planet's 4.5 billion years old, we've been through geologic age after geologic age. We've had times when the temperature's been warmer, we've had times when the temperature's been colder. We've had times when the carbon in the atmosphere's been higher. So, I think ... we need to look before we leap,” he said.
Bartiromo’s question was a flashback to Paul’s vote on one of the climate-related amendments that the Senate rejected while debating the Keystone pipeline on January 21. But she didn’t ask about the very next vote that day, which was on liberal Democrat Brian Schatz’s amendment, one that better summed up what scientists believe by stating that it’s “extremely likely” that higher global temperatures stem from human activities and that people contribute “significantly” to climate change.
That one drew just four GOP votes as Paul and most of the other 15 Republicans backed away. One of those four was South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who, like Paul, is running for president. But viewers were given no clue as to his candidacy Tuesday night. Graham’s microscopic polling numbers were too dismal to make even the earlier “kids table” debate that aired at 7 p.m. Also excluded was New York Governor George Pataki, who flatly says humans are heating up the Earth.
“One of the things that troubles me about the Republican Party is too often we question science that everyone accepts,” he said at a late October debate. Pataki has even tried to use his climate stance as a way to get traction in the GOP contest, saying over Twitter a month earlier that climate change is real and he would “shout it from the rooftops.” It linked to a fundraising page.
Pataki, when he was New York’s governor, helped launch a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions from power plants in northeastern states. In the October 28 debate, however, he emphasized more common GOP themes of encouraging private-sector innovation.
Graham, for his part, spent months negotiating a sweeping bill to limit greenhouse gases in 2010 with then-Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, but then he walked away from the talks, making the bill’s already steep climb even tougher without a GOP co-sponsor. It never got a vote. There is plenty of distance between Graham and most Democrats on climate policy—he has voted against EPA's regulation of carbon emissions. But at the late October debate, he made his views on the science clear, noting: “I've talked to the climatologists of the world, and 90 percent of them are telling me that greenhouse-gas effect is real, that we're heating up the planet.”
It is, to be sure, awfully hard to imagine that climate change has anything to do with the polling numbers that reshuffled the debate lineups. But the disappearance of Graham and Pataki from the stage, and the demotion of another climate-change acknowledger, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to the lower-tier debate Tuesday underscores how small a role climate change will have in the Republican presidential primary—even as others in the party demonstrate an increasing willingness to discuss the issue.