Jon Huntsman on Evolution & Global Warming

At the moment, Jon Huntsman is not one of the major contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. But he was interviewed on the Fox network on 25 October, and some of what he said is of interest.

The whole interview, and a video, can be seen at Jon Huntsman in Race for ‘Long Haul’? Here are some excerpts of the parts relevant to evolution and global warming, with bold font added by us:

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: We welcome you to our “Center Seat” tonight. Republican presidential candidate and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Governor, thanks for being here.

JON HUNTSMAN, R – PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Bret. Pleasure to be with you.

Polite opening stuff. Let’s get to the fun part:

BAIER: Governor, I want you to listen to this sound bite. It is you talking about some issues before Charles starts his question here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUNTSMAN: The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party, the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on wrong side of science and therefore in a losing position. (END VIDEO CLIP)

Now that we have your attention, here’s the good stuff:

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Governor, I’m with you on evolution. I’m an agnostic on global warming. Does it make me anti-science?

We’ve always liked Krauthammer. Here’s the Governor’s answer:

HUNTSMAN: Of course not. It means that you have got a position, and I respect that. And when you have a body of scientists who have weighed in to the extent they have, and I am a little reminded of, ya know, having been involved in building a cancer institute out west. If you had 98 out of 100 oncologists who said we think we have some important breakthroughs on breast, colon, and prostate cancer that is meaningful for people to understand in terms of procedures going forward, we would turn and say science has spoken. It’s important to respect that.

So all I am saying is you raise your kids to go out and find a cure for cancer, you raise your kids to get educated and to solve the world’s big problem problems. And when the scientific community speaks, I think, ya know, we take a look at what they say have to say. And I think that when they speak I tend to respect that.

Well, okay, but Krauthammer isn’t done yet. Let’s read on:

KRAUTHAMMER: Are you saying that the case is closed on global warming?

HUNTSMAN: No, I’m not saying it’s closed at all. I think it will continue to evolve. And I think science has a responsibility. When some of it has been called into question, the scientific community has a responsibility to stand up and explain themselves.

Whatever that means. It certainly doesn’t satisfy Krauthammer. His questions continue:

KRAUTHAMMER: But there is a difference between evolution and global warming. Global warming has implications for the spending of trillions of dollars

HUNTSMAN: Of course –

KRAUTHAMMER: — of tax money and changing the way that America lives. So it isn’t as if it’s an abstraction. Are you willing to engage in those activities which would be — that could be ruinous if misspent on the basis of a theory that you say the case is not closed?

You gotta love Krauthammer! Now here comes the Governor’s answer. Read it closely:

HUNTSMAN: I respect the science. In terms of the tools I would use to address it, I say if we are reading one body of science here and the Chinese are reading a different body of science there and the Indians are yet again reading something different, the largest emitters in the world are going from different benchmarks. And how can we unilaterally disarm in this country and impose something in the way of cost for the job creators when the largest emitters in the world are reading from a different scientific text?

So what’s his position? Can you figure it our, dear reader? Anyway, that’s pretty much all there is on the subjects we talk about here, but there’s a lot more on other issues at the Fox website. If you’re interested in Huntsman, now you know where to go.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Jon Huntsman on Evolution & Global Warming

  1. Seems straight forward enough. He is willing to impose measures, the scientific community says are necessary, to try to limit the warming effect, only if the rest of the world agrees to implement the same measures.

  2. I too am far more “agnostic” on GW than I am about evolution. That’s in part because I’m admittedly far more confused about the science of GW than I am about biology. But also because from what I can tell, there’s much more of a chance that new information could radically change our conclusions on the causes of GW, than there is that new information could change evolution, at least beyond mechanistic details that would have no bearing on the general “4 billion years of common descent with modification. Though “much more of a chance” could still be very remote.

    What drives me nuts abut GW is that 3 separate issues are routinely confused, even by many on the pro-science side (Krauthammer too?). The issues are: (1) GW itself (regardless of cause), (2) Anthropogenic GW, and (3) what government ought to do about it. Unless one is 100% clear which of those issues one is addressing, the scam artists win.

    I would greatly respect a politician who says: “I have no reason to deny what 98% (99.9 in the case of evolution) of scientists working in relevant fields conclude – especially because they have the most to gain by challenging the status quo. And I encourage all private spending to accomplish what those scientists say needs to be done. But I’d rather balance the budget before commiting more public funds.”

  3. OTOH, the minute a politician cites a fringe group of “dissenting” scientists (or economists) whose alternate “theories” just happen to support that politician’s agenda, they lose my vote.

  4. Frank J says:

    What drives me nuts abut GW is that 3 separate issues are routinely confused, even by many on the pro-science side (Krauthammer too?). The issues are: (1) GW itself (regardless of cause), (2) Anthropogenic GW, and (3) what government ought to do about it.

    Correct, although I would add to your #3: “– if anything.”

  5. Tomato Addict

    Nicely said, Frank.

    I’l love to be able to reframe this debate. The science on GW is increasingly clear, telling us there will be consequences, perhaps dire. The economics of GW is less clear; Doing something will be expensive, perhaps very dear, but NOT doing anything will also have costs. This isn’t a question of *IF* it will cost us, it’s a matter of *which* price we want to pay.

  6. Frank J, good point about the potential for new discoveries or data dramatically altering the picture and predictions… especially considering the predictions are based on computer models.

    Regarding Huntsman…

    I think, but I am not sure, Huntsman is trying to address the extreme position that there is absolutely nothing to AGW/CC, that it is a vast conspiracy, and that the scientists are in on it.

    I think, but I am not sure, that Huntsman is saying that even if one is skeptical if 98% of the scientists who are studying something agree then there is probably not a conspiracy.

    l’m not sure, but I hope he is restricting this view to the natural sciences and not including the so-called social sciences.

    It would be nice of some prominent left of center personage took a similar position about the extreme positions, predictions, and proposed remedies coming out of the left, predicting the end of the world as we know it if we do not take drastic action that would cripple our economy and impose heavy handed controls over the everyday life of ordinary people, while leaving China, India, and most of the rest of the world to continue dumping huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    It would also be nice if some prominent left of center personage suggested that maybe we should try to adapt to AGW/CC rather than cripple our economy and impose heavy handed government controls over the everyday life of ordinary people.

    Instead we get Al Gore’s heavy handed and propaganda.

    It’s little wonder so many on the Right are skeptical and distrustful when the proposed remedies satisfy the Left’s desire for massive government control over the economy and the population. My beef with Hunstman is that he does not also acknowledge this while wagging his finger at his fellow Republicans. I’m largely with Krauthammer on this, and most other issues.

  7. I think Flakey’s got it right, he seems to be saying that he’s not going to put us at economic disadvantage by adopting measures other countries don’t.

    Krauthammer’s comment about ‘economic implications’ is subtly wrong. Warming is going to have economic implications regardless of what we choose to do. Doing nothing at all merely results in a different set of costs (both real and oppurtunity). Moreover, the science of global warming does not dictate policy. What it does is inform policy by telling you the likely outcomes of different actions. Science tells you that if you do A, B will happen. If you do C, D will happen. It does not tell you that you ought to do A or C. That is a political decision.

    People of different political bents should agree on the science even while they disagree on whether A or C is politically preferrable, because the costs of A and C are going to be distributed differently. Option A may cost me a lot and you a little, while C might do the reverse. In which case we can both fully agree on the science and yet disagree on what to do about it.

    The problem comes with deniers who want to pretend there is/will be no economic costs at all with doing nothing. At this point in time, I see that position as being about as credible as the tobacco-funded organizations who claim there is no risk of cancer from smoking.

  8. @Curmudgeon.

    Sure. One of the things govt. can do, and what it does best 99% ot the time, is “get out of the way.”

  9. Any effective plan to slow or reverse global warming will have to be a global plan. I think Huntsman was getting at that problem with his reference to China and India having different views on GW.

    In my view, Republicans appear to have several reasons not to address global warming;

    (1) the fact that the world is warming is being advanced by scientists, and the more religious/creationist Republicans do not trust scientists. It is also advanced by Al Gore and other liberals, and no Republican candidate wants to be in a position of agreeing with Al Gore. Ever.

    (2) it will require cooperation with other countries, and acceptance of internationally agreed-to restrictions — not a Republican talking point. Some republicans go so far in their aversion to international cooperation as to favor disbanding the UN.

    (3) the more religious candidates (which appear to be most of them) believe that God made a convenant not to destroy the world again after the flood. They take him at his word. Perry and Bachman almost certainly fall into this category.

    (4) global warming cannot be solved by a simplistic, catchy, plan, like Cain’s “9-9-9″ plan or Perry’s postcard tax return. (those plans don’t solve tax or economic problems either, but they’re catchy) QW is just not suitable for soundbite politics. The current slate of GOP candidates seems to be averse to tackling anything complex, or requiring nuance, or even much thought – no one wants to defend a position that requires more than thirty seconds to explain. Global warming, on the other hand, will be the most difficult problem humanity has ever attempted to solve..

    (5) the problem will require Government action to some degree, ranging from carefully targeted regulation and incentives to full out alternative energy infrastructure development. Most of the current slate of GOP candidates view any government action with deep suspicion, regardless of it’s necessity or the benefits to be accrued. (the exception is, of course, for enacting and enforcing “social values” laws, amendments, regulations, etc.)

    The biggest concern is that it might be too late anyway.

  10. Ed “Any effective plan to slow or reverse global warming will have to be a global plan. I think Huntsman was getting at that problem with his reference to China and India having different views on GW.”

    Not so much different views on GW, except for the fact they do admit it is going on. It is they say any solution can not include steps to limit them in energy production, until they reach Western output per capita standards. So you have the two most populous countries saying they will not do anything for 20 to 50 years. It is hard to argue though, that we have this amount of power, but you should not.

    I suspect the only way to come to a world wide decision is to bind India and china to that plan, and then cut the energy output of the Western world. Not that I see that happening. I am seeing the tobacco lobby like defence tactics gumming everything up for decades, since tobacco companys managed that long, and the evidence against them was far more clear cut.

  11. Eric says, “Science tells you that if you do A, B will happen. If you do C, D will happen.”

    Unfortunately, the field of climatology is not that well developed. Frankly, we don’t really know what will happen if we do A or C, or for that matter, E through Z. And we shouldn’t bet the world’s economy on a drastic roll of the dice of a draconian nature.

    Surely, we do know that we are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. We also know that CO2 does a decent job of absorbing infrared wavelengths, which can (will) cause the atmosphere to warm. But we don’t know if it will continue to warm, or how warm it will get, and when.

    For instance, a warming ocean will result in more evaporation, possibly increasing cloud cover. More clouds means higher reflectance, keeping some of the Sun’s energy out of the lower atmosphere.

    More water in the atmosphere can also result in more precipitation, including more snow cover in the Arctic — again, increasing albedo, which would have a cooling effect.

    Then too, increasing ocean temperatures would release more of the ocean’s dissolved CO2 into the atmosphere, and we may get a runaway Greenhouse Effect, killing us all by turning the Earth into another Venus.

    Therefore, it makes sense to me to do what we can to reduce CO2 emissions without killing the world’s economy. Transportation is going to require the use of fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but we certainly can increase efficiency, and there is already a powerful economic incentive to do this. It doesn’t need massive government intervention.

    Generating electricity, on the other hand, does not require burning fossil fuels. It’s just that burning coal is the cheapest way to generate electricity. Natural gas-generated electricity costs considerably more than coal, but puts much less CO2 into the atmosphere. Luckily, the supply of natural gas is increasing dramatically with the use of hydrofracturing.

    Nuclear doesn’t put anything into the atmosphere and is capable of generating vast amounts of electricity, so maybe we should bite the political bullet and build more nukes.

    Gotta eat now.

  12. @RetiredSciGuy

    Nuclear doesn’t put anything into the atmosphere and is capable of generating vast amounts of electricity, so maybe we should bite the political bullet and build more nukes.

    If the Left ever comes around to seriously and sincerely promoting this I might begin to think they are starting to take the “problem” seriously instead of trying to politically exploit it.

  13. Why is is that China and India (and many others) are so reluctant to join us in saving the planet?

    Possible explanations…

    1) They do not buy into the doom and gloom and predictions of impending catastrophic disaster — they must be religion crazed Republicans.

    2) They do not care. Whatever happens, happens and they’ll adapt and deal with it if and when it happens — they must be religion crazed Republicans.

    3) They think we are unfairly “rich” and that we ought to put the breaks on wealth creation, make ourselves poorer, and let them catch up — they must be Marx sympathetic Democrats.

    4) All of the above.

    I’ll go with 4), minus the political editorial.

  14. Jack H. says, “If the Left ever comes around to seriously and sincerely promoting this [nuclear] I might begin to think they are starting to take the “problem” seriously instead of trying to politically exploit it.”

    The Left?? Trying to politically exploit a situation??? Oh, how you talk!! You gotta admit, though, they’re pretty damn good at it. Look how much mileage they’re getting with the “Protest Wall Street” movement — even though the top 1% pays something like 40% of personal income tax. Funny we don’t hear that on the news reports. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

  15. Jack – China at current rate will over take America within 15 to 20 years. India maybe 30 to 50 if they carry on expanding like they are. there is no need for them to try to break America for them to catch up. In fact China needs a some what healthy America, since America is bank rolling China’s expansion.

    Also they do not think you are unfairly rich, they just reserve the right to be as rich as you. So what you saying Jack is you would love rich people passing laws saying we got money and now we going to make it impossible for anyone else to do the same?

  16. Flakey says, “So what you saying Jack is you would love rich people passing laws saying we got money and now we going to make it impossible for anyone else to do the same?”

    I can’t speak for Jack, but I’d like to see the entire world population being rich and prosperous. Why not? Why do we assume that one nation must suffer for another to prosper? To suggest that one class of people must exploit others in order to advance is to sow the seeds of war.

    It doesn’t need to be that way. The entire world economy is totally interrelated. If one nation suffers, we all hurt. Conversely, if one nation is successful, trade among nations will share the wealth.

    It can be done. We just need to switch to a source of energy to fuel the world’s economic growth that adds less CO2 to the atmosphere. We should be smart enough to figure a way to do that.

    Isn’t that what The Enlightenment is all about?

  17. @Flakey

    China at current rate will over take America within 15 to 20 years. India maybe 30 to 50 if they carry on expanding like they are. there is no need for them to try to break America for them to catch up.

    Not that it matters or is relevant to anything I said — no on both counts — but do those projections take into consideration the predicted impending AGW/CC catastrophic disasters? If not, how exactly do they factor in?

    Also, economic predictions of what the world will be like in 15-50 years are notoriously disparate and usually wrong. One case in point, the present state of the US and world economy. Another, before WW I most prognosticators said such a widespread extended war was economically unsustainable. Any major conflict would have to be short out of economic necessity. There are many, many more examples.

    That’s why everyone should be very skeptical about the favored negative predictions of power hungry politicians and bureaucrats whose proposed remedies call for increasing their power. It is also why attempts to centralize the planning and control of entire national economies is a bad idea.

    So what you saying Jack is you would love rich people passing laws saying we got money and now we going to make it impossible for anyone else to do the same?

    Umm, no. I said no such thing.

  18. “3) They think we are unfairly “rich” and that we ought to put the breaks on wealth creation, make ourselves poorer, and let them catch up — they must be Marx sympathetic Democrats.”

    “Not that it matters or is relevant to anything I said”

    It is directly relevant to what you said, or did you forget what you posted?

    “Umm, no. I said no such thing”

    Yes you did by saying India and China have no interest in saving the planet, They are interested in saving the planet but only as equals to the rich countries, and not forever forced to be a sub par nation. When their consumption is only a fraction per capita of the West, it is totally hypercritical for the West to say you not interested in saving the planet unless you freeze growth, or make cuts too.

  19. Flakey, you said…

    So what you saying Jack is you would love rich people passing laws..

    Read what I posted again, in context. I did not advocate passing any laws, much less show any “love” for “rich” people doing so to keep the poor down. But nice try, comrade.

    Like RetiredScienceGuy I would like to see everyone on the planet become wealthier. If China and India need to burn fossil fuels to help enrich their nation and raise the living standard of their citizens I do not have problem with that. I’m not one of those saying they are helping to destroy the planet in doing so. At a minimum China and India have concluded the pluses outweigh the negatives.

    I think the human race can and will adapt to whatever effect increased CO2 in the atmosphere has on the climate. The human species is vert goos at adapting and that is really our only practical option. Like RetiredScienceGuy I think that where it makes economic sense we should reduce our CO2 emissions, but not when it significantly negatively impacts our economy, reduces our living standard, and gives power hungry politicians and bureaucrats greater power and control over our lives. We already have enough economic problems to deal with.

    I also think that China and India would not object if we unilaterally shackle our own economy thereby giving them a greater relative economic advantage in the world economy. In the real world nations seek whatever economic advantages they can get in the competition over world trade. It is in their economic interest to do so.

  20. “I also think that China and India would not object if we unilaterally shackle our own economy thereby giving them a greater relative economic advantage in the world economy”

    I do not think they would object either, why I said a some what healthy USA. earlier in one of my posts, Yes I also agree that humans can adapt to most things,it is just some areas are going to be locally devastated.

    “gives power hungry politicians and bureaucrats greater power and control over our lives.”

    It not just politicians you have to worry about it, be wary of corporate backed ones too. You just have to look at the current IP law Act being pushed through at the moment by the Mpaa, and the film industry, to realise that. A law that could see Youtube pushed out of America, and Curm here made a felon, if he continues to post clips from newspapers.