VIRGINIA BEACH | Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert F. McDonnell said Saturday he thinks the globe is warming but wouldn’t fix blame on man-made carbon emissions as its cause.
Mr. McDonnell said after a veterans rally with Sen. John McCain that he remains firmly opposed to energy reform legislation intended to slow global warming by reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
“I think it’s a real concern, and we need to find ways to be able to reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions,” Mr. McDonnell said in advocating development of technology to eliminate pollutants from coal-fired energy plants.
When asked to clarify whether he thinks that global warming is scientific fact, however, he hedged.
“Well, there’s some debate that various scientists are going on in that,” he said. “I think the temperature of the earth, from the science I’ve seen, is going up.”
Then, asked if he thought elevated levels of man-made carbon emissions in the atmosphere were to blame, he said, “Look, it’s not going to affect my policy decisions. What the policy decision needs to be is to find ways that are creative to be able to reduce CO2.”
“I am going to accept the science that’s out there, and the science is that we need to do everything that we can to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, and that will help,” he said.
The issue had simmered since a debate Monday with Democratic rival R. Creigh Deeds, in which Mr. McDonnell never definitively answered a question about whether he thinks man-made climate change is a serious threat. It flared Friday after former vice president and climate change watchdog Al Gore held a fundraiser for Mr. Deeds, and Virginia Republicans said it proved Mr. Deeds supports cap-and-trade legislation that they claim will increase energy costs and worsen unemployment. They dismissed the Nobel laureate as “the Goracle.”
Virginia Democrats fired back by calling Mr. McDonnell and the Republican ticket he heads “the most backward, anti-science” ever in Virginia.
“For the better part of a week, Bob McDonnell has had the opportunity to answer the straightforward question, ‘Do you believe in the science of global warming,’ and he still refuses. It’s not a hard question,” said Deeds strategist Mo Elleithee.
The question came again after Mr. McCain and Mr. McDonnell addressed a crowd of veterans in a region rich with military installations, including the world’s largest U.S. Navy base in neighboring Norfolk.
Mr. McCain in his presidential campaign last year said he believed global warming from human causes is a fact to be taken seriously. Other Republicans concur, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Virginia Sen. John W. Warner and former president George W. Bush. But many Republicans vehemently reject that global warming is caused by air pollution.
Mr. McCain, a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said President Obama’s administration was “missing in action” in advocating the use of nuclear power, which generates no carbon exhaust. But he said reducing atmospheric carbon should be a goal no matter whether people accept or reject climate change as fact.
“Suppose we are right, those of us who believe climate change is taking place, and move forward with various measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. McCain said. “But the bill that passed the House of Representatives isn’t cap and trade, it’s cap and tax.”
Mr. McCain’s visit and Mr. Gore’s the day before signal a quickening of the pace of visits by high-profile proxies in the final sprint to the Nov. 3 election. Mr. Obama returns to Virginia to campaign with Mr. Deeds on Oct. 27, and former President Bill Clinton will stump with Mr. Deeds later this month.