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Scorched Earth: How Climate Change Could Upend the Inland Northwest

Could this be a turning point in the climate change debate?



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Political Hot Potato

Where do Mitt Romney and Barack Obama stand on climate change? It depends when you're asking. Both candidates have altered their remarks over the years. Romney has said in the past--and in his 2010 book No Apologies--that he believes climate change is caused by human actions. That changed as he vied to become the Republican choice for president.

"My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet," an October 2011 story by CNN quotes Romney as saying. "And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

And Romney, in a statement to, said: "I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue--on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution and the severity of the risk--and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community."

Obama has done some of his own shifting. Like other Democrats, he's chucked the soaring rhetoric of saving the planet in order to talk about the consistently uneven economy.

In November 2008, Obama vowed during the presidential campaign "to reduce climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and invest $150 billion in new energy-saving technologies," according to a 2008 New York Times story. But while Obama still talks about how we need to reduce greenhouse gases, the lofty promises are absent. In remarks last week, Obama instead touted a series of smaller moves already made by the administration to curb greenhouse gases.

"Climate change is one of the biggest issues of this generation," he said in a statement to, "and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office, I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the federal government."

—Joe O'Sullivan

Idaho's Leaders

What do Idaho's elected congressmen have to say on the issue of climate change?

Sen. Mike Crapo

Crapo's Communications Director Lindsay Nothern said Crapo believes the climate change discussion has merit, but that he's not 100 percent convinced of man's involvement as opposed to natural occurrences.

"He's convinced there's definitely an impact, but he's always said whatever steps we take to deal with the situation is something that we have to do globally, not just nationally," Nothern said.

He added that Crapo supports alternative energy options like nuclear and green energy, and adds that it's important to widen our energy portfolio. Nothern added that Crapo is still cautious about moving too quickly.

"The worst thing is plunging our economy into problems because of energy prices," he said.

Sen. Jim Risch

Risch's Communications Director Brad Hoaglun said that Risch approaches the issue of climate change from a scientific perspective since he did his undergrad work in science. Hoaglun said Risch points to the fact that science has shown that the Earth has natural cycles of heating and cooling, and that while current science does show a warming trend in some areas, it cannot prove, at this point, the exact cause of the phenomena. Risch also points to the competing scientific theories, adding that theory can only become fact after repeated experiments, which can't be done.

Regardless of the cause, Hoaglun said Risch believes that wherever it is reasonable, we should use alternatives to CO2-emitting sources of energy, but quickly added that he also wants to protect Idahoans from high energy costs.

And while Risch supports nuclear energy, he is strongly opposed to any "enormous, radical or expensive program" like Cap and Trade.

Rep. Mike Simpson

Simpson issued the following statement:

"There is widespread disagreement as to the magnitude of human influence on the climate and the degree to which any effort by humanity to reduce carbon output would slow or reverse the effects of climate change.

"While I believe we must work to move our economy to a sustainable, independent energy source, I am concerned that recent government efforts to address climate change would result in large tax increases, major job losses and higher energy costs, all without any real improvement in climate conditions over the next 100 years. Instead of creating a host of expensive government mandates and duplicative programs, I support looking at all the options as we move our economy toward environmentally responsible energy independence."

Rep. Raul Labrador

Rep. Labrador's office was unable to comment by press time.

—Deanna Darr

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