Jon Huntsman fielded questions from conservative bloggers today at the Heritage Foundation, including one about meeting global reductions targets that he answered by stating that high-emissions countries need to agree on the need to reduce emissions before the U.S. did so alone. This reply prompted a reporter from the liberal Talking Points Memo to ask if Huntsman was “changing his tune” on his earlier professed belief in climate change.
Huntsman answered by clarifying that he accepts the conclusions of climate scientists, but not as a matter of faith, instead as a matter of deferring to expertise. That distinction was, apparently, lost on the TPM reporter, who titled a post on Huntsman’s reponse “Jon Huntsman Flip-Flops On Climate Change.”
No, he didn’t (possibly to his own disadvantage, since his earlier statements about climate change weren’t popular among the Republican base). Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
REPORTER: Aren’t you sort of changing your tune about climate change here? Didn’t you say before that 90 percent of climate scientists think it’s real, probably real, and now you’re saying that there’s more that needs to be said before we know if it’s true or not. Could you explain the difference between your past statements on it and what you’re saying now?
HUNTSMAN: I didn’t say 90, I said 99 percent of members of the Academy of Sciences have weighed in on the subject matter. I’m not changing that at all, I still say that.
[Note — here Huntsman is confirming and amplifying his original statement, not waffling on it.]
I say because of that, you know, I’m not a physicist, I’m not a scientist. I tend to defer to those who do it for a living and say I’d be prepared to take it out of the political milieu and put it in the scientific milieu. But because there is — there are questions about the validity of the science, evidenced by one university over in Scotland recently, I think the onus is on the scientific community to provide more in the way of information — to help clarify the situation, that’s all. But do I defer to science and those who happen to do this for a living on this issue? Yeah I do, as I do on issues like cancer, for example. So as someone who was part of building a cancer institute years ago, if you had 90 or 99 percent of oncologists who gave you a course of treatment on breast cancer, colon or prostrate cancer, you’d pretty much say the scientific community has spoken, let’s generally respect what they have to say about it. If there’s some interruption or disconnect in terms of what other scientists have to say, well then let the debate play out in the scientific community. I think that’s where we are. There’s probably more debate left to play out.
It shouldn’t be controversial, in the wake of Climategate, for Huntsman to say that the scientific community needs to do a better job clarifying the situation.