Much to my surprise, Charlie Gibson of ABC news, in his interview with John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, pressed the candidate on the issue of climate change. McCain has expressed some concern about climate change in the past and at one point sponsored a cap-and-trade bill. Palin, on the other hand, has denied the anthropogenic factors influencing climate change, placing her radically out of step with McCain, her own party, and scientific consensus.
In the interview with Gibson, however, she appears to (maybe) have changed her tune. Here is the relevant section of the transcript:
Sarah Palin on Climate Change:
GIBSON: Let me talk a little bit about environmental policy, because this interfaces with energy policy and you have some significant differences with John McCain. Do you still believe that global warming is not man-made?
PALIN: I believe that man’s activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change. Here in Alaska, the only arctic state in our union, of course, we see the effects of climate change more so than any other area with ice pack melting. Regardless, though, of the reason for climate change, whether it’s entirely, wholly caused by man’s activities or is part of the cyclical nature of our planet — the warming and the cooling trends — regardless of that, John McCain and I agree that we gotta do something about it and we have to make sure that we’re doing all we can to cut down on pollution.
GIBSON: But it’s a critical point as to whether or not this is man-made. He says it is. You have said in the past it’s not.
PALIN: The debate on that even, really has evolved into, OK, here’s where we are now: scientists do show us that there are changes in climate. Things are getting warmer. Now what do we do about it. And John McCain and I are gonna be working on what we do about it.
GIBSON: Yes, but isn’t it critical as to whether or not it’s man-made, because what you do about it depends on whether its man-made.
PALIN: That is why I’m attributing some of man’s activities to potentially causing some of the changes in the climate right now.
GIBSON: But I, color me a cynic, but I hear a little bit of change in your policy there. When you say, yes, now you’re beginning to say it is man-made. It sounds to me like you’re adapting your position to Sen. McCain’s.
PALIN: I think you are a cynic because show me where I have ever said that there’s absolute proof that nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any affect, or no affect, on climate change.
On the surface she seems to have shifted her position: “I believe that man’s activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming.” When pressed by Gibson on her weasel words, she asserts: “I’m attributing some of man’s activities to potentially causing some of the changes in the climate right now.”
Her deployment of a rhetoric of uncertainty makes it seem like she is on board with science, without repudiating her previous claims. One would think that a politician from a circumpolar region would have more command of the science and policy of climate change, but she gives little confidence that this is the case.