Time was, you could sign on to the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made and still have a shot at the GOP presidential nod. No longer. Today, unless you believe (or say you believe) global warming is a liberal hoax ginned up to justify higher taxes and tyrannical government, you might as well not apply. "Republican presidential hopefuls can believe in man-made global warming as long as they never talk about it, and oppose all the so-called solutions," Marc Morano, a former aide to environment-loathing Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, tells AP. This puts the several 2012 contenders who once supported fighting climate change in a tough spot. And they've responded to the pressure by ... taking it all back and begging for forgiveness?
• Tim Pawlenty: As governor of Minnesota he signed a law to cut greenhouse gas emissions and appeared in a radio ad where he said, "If we act now, we can create thousands of new jobs in clean energy industries before our overseas competitors beat us to it." As a presidential contender, he said, "I don't duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away," he said. "I'm just telling you, I made a mistake."
• Jon Huntsman: As governor of Utah, he appeared in an ad for an environmental group in which he said, "Now it's time for Congress to act by capping greenhouse gas pollution," and signed an agreement with seven other Western states and four Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gases. He now says that while he still believes in global warming, "much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn't the moment," to do anything about it.
• Mitt Romney: As Massachusetts governor, Romney introduced a Climate Protection Plan in 2004, requiring state agencies and large businesses to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. As a presidential candidate in 2008, he was willing to concede the reality of man-made climate change. He now says he's unsure if human activity is responsible for climate change, that cap-and-trade would be "disastrous" for the U.S. economy, and that "we should not take extreme measures when we are unsure of human role in global warming."
• Newt Gingrich: The former House Speaker appeared in an ad with – of all people – Nancy Pelosi in 2008 in which he said, "We do agree that our country must take action on climate change." Since setting his sights on the presidency, Gingrich has called for the abolition of the EPA, blasted "cap-and-trade," and even expressed doubt about the link between climate change and the burning of fossil fuels.
Will all this groveling make the conservative base like them again? Hard to say. After all, these guys have so much to live down. As a Republican strategist tells AP, it's not just that they believed in climate change – that "just makes people question their judgment. It's that they suggested that government do something about it. "That makes people question their character."
• 'GOP presidential hopefuls shift on global warming' [AP]