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McCain backtracks on climate change

By Juliet Eilperin

Most people think of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as one of the biggest proponents of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

Maybe, maybe not.

In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Barry Young on Tuesday, McCain claimed he never supported capping greenhouse gas emissions at a certain level.

Check out the Q and A:

Q: If we knew then what we know today about these scientists and this fraud, would you still be in favor of capping carbon emissions at 2000 levels?

A: I've never favored it at a certain level. I've favored reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the good of -- I mean we all know that greenhouse gases are bad! But I've said, in order to achieve that we have to have nuclear power as a component of it.

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in an interview McCain "was referring to 2000" rather that the general concept of capping greenhouse gases at a specific level. "He was focusing on that year. He cut himself short."

Actually, McCain did propose capping greenhouse gases at the 2000 level -- back when he and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced their first climate bill. At that point the legislation called for capping U.S. emissions at 2000 levels from 2010 to 2016, and then reducing them to 1990 levels in subsequent years.

As a presidential candidate, McCain called for going below 2000 levels in the near term, returning the United States to its 2005 emissions levels by 2012, then to its 1990 levels by 2020. His plan would have cut U.S. emissions by at least 60 percent compared with 1990 levels by mid-century.

But that was then, this is now.

Young also claimed in his interview with McCain that "80 percent" of climate science is based on "fraud and misinformation." McCain has consistently said he believes in the scientific conclusion that human activity is fueling recent climate change, but this time, he didn't take issue with that assertion.

"Those weren't his words, those were the talk show host's words," Buchanan emphasized. "He's not going to get in an argument with a local talk show host about what he said."

McCain has yet to decide whether to support climate legislation this year, including an effort being led by his two closest friends in the Senate, Lieberman and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Buchanan said McCain is waiting to see how much support the bill will provide for the nuclear industry, along with provisions aimed at reprocessing and storing spent nuclear fuel.

"It comes down to this nuclear issue," she said. "He does not believe we can have a viable climate legislation without this nuclear component."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  February 17, 2010; 3:41 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sen. Lincoln responds; EPA faces more legal challenges | Next: McCain's climate change interview, continued

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