Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.)Photo: Jim Greenhill
Former governor of Minnesota

[UPDATE: Pawlenty announced on Aug. 14, 2011 that he was quitting the race for president.]

Pawlenty used to be a champion of moderate climate action, but he’s changed his tune in the last couple of years. (We sense a theme.)

On climate science: In 2007, while announcing a new state climate commission, he said, “our global climate is warming, at least in part due to the energy sources we use.”

But by 2010, Pawlenty was emphasizing uncertainty rather than warming. “The climate’s obviously changing,” he said on Meet the Press. “But the real question and the more interesting question is how much of that is manmade, how much of that is the result of natural causes and patterns? And, of course, we’ve seen a lot of data manipulation and a lot of controversy or at least debate within the scientific community.”

On climate policy: In 2007, Pawlenty signed his state up for the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a regional cap-and-trade system, and signed a bill requiring that 25 percent of Minnesota’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. In 2008, he (unsuccessfully) pushed a climate initiative while he was chair of the National Governors Association, and gave a speech calling for climate action at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

“I support a reasonable cap-and-trade system,” Pawlenty said in 2008, when he was gunning for the VP slot on McCain’s ticket. “I think it’d be good for the federal government to take that up rather than have states take it up as clusters of regions.”

But two years later, he changed his tune: “[W]e should all be in favor of reducing pollution. But we need to do that in ways that don’t burden the economy. Cap-and-trade, I think, would be a disaster in that regard,” he said on Meet the Press.
Pawlenty spokesperson Alex Conant explained the switch: “Gov. Pawlenty and many others considered cap-and-trade approaches, but concluded it’s the wrong approach and doesn’t support it. Over the last couple of years he has fought to stop the Democrats’ cap-and-trade proposals because they’re bureaucratic, clumsy and hurt the economy.”

UPDATE, 2/15/11: At the CPAC conference in February 2011, Pawlenty walked back even further from his previous support for cap-and-trade: “Have I changed my position? Yes. But I’m not going to be cute about it, hem and haw, be dippy and dancy about it. Just saying yeah, it was a mistake, it was stupid. It was wrong.”

UPDATE, 4/22/11: Mother Jones reports on how Pawlenty had worked closely with Arctic explorer Will Steger to raise awareness of climate change, but then abruptly stopped collaborating in 2008 when his national profile started to rise. Steger says he’s “baffled” by Pawlenty’s change of position on climate change.