Many GOP contenders acknowledge that humans probably play some role in recent climate change — but that’s as far as the agreement goes, as the NY Times explained today:

Senator John McCain of Arizona is calling for capping gas emissions linked to warming and higher fuel economy standards. Others, including Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, are refraining from advocating such limits and are instead emphasizing a push toward clean coal and other alternative energy sources.

All agree that nuclear power should be greatly expanded.

McCain recently said, “I have had enough experience and enough knowledge to believe that unless we reverse what is happening on this planet, my dear friends, we are going to hand our children a planet that is badly damaged.”

Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani say little about the potential dangers of climate change and almost nothing about curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. They talk almost exclusively about the need for independence from foreign oil as a necessity for national security.

Fred D. Thompson, after mocking the threat in April, said more recently that “climate change is real” and suggested a measured approach until more was known about it.

You can read about all the candidates’ views (from both parties) at the NY Times election guide on climate change (or better yet, at Grist’s special series on the candidates). Hillary will be announcing her energy plan next week, and we’ve already seen Obama’s terrific plan. Since Rudy appears more and more likely to be the Republican nominee, let’s look a bit more at where he stands (and at why even the NYT coverage of the subject remains as frustrating as ever):

On the campaign trail, Mr. Giuliani has said, “I do believe there’s global warming,” but in a speech on energy in the summer in Waterloo, Iowa, he had hardly a word about the environment. Instead, he focused on tapping domestic sources of energy, including coal, which is considered a major contributor to global warming.

(Note to the NYT: Can we please drop phrases like “which is considered”? Is there any reasonable person who questions whether coal is a major contributor to global warming? If the “paper of record” hedges even statements of fact, how will we ever get a consensus for action? But I digress.)

“Ethanol, biodiesel, clean coal, nuclear power, more refineries, conservation,” Mr. Giuliani said. “There’s no one single solution. But each one of these has to be expanded 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent.

“America has more coal reserves than Saudi Arabia has oil reserves. Aren’t we safer and better off relying on our own coal reserves than on a part of the world that is a threat to us?”

Uh, no — at least not if we want to stop catastrophic warming. This shows how little global warming has, in fact, penetrated Rudy’s thinking on energy.

I think we have to accept the view that scientists have that there is global warming and that human operation, human condition, contributes to that. And the fact is that there is a way to deal with it and to address it in a way that we can also accomplish energy independence, which we need as a matter of national security. It’s frustrating and really dangerous for us to see money going to our enemies because we have to buy oil from certain countries. We should be supporting all the alternatives. We need a project similar to putting a man on the moon.” — Republican debate, June 5, 2007

“Whatever your scientific conclusion about global warming, whether it’s manmade or it isn’t or whatever, the reality is … if you don’t have restrictions on China, if you don’t have restrictions on India, our contribution, ultimately, is going to be minor. We could put all these restrictions on ourselves and have just as much arguable global warming if China, India, some of these other countries that are going to be contributing a lot more to this don’t become part of some kind of system to create alternatives.” — “Kudlow and Company,” CNBC, March 26, 2007.

Questions remain: Does Rudy believe it’s manmade or not (or whatever!)? Should the U.S. take unilateral action to assert leadership, or not? Doesn’t his endorsement of liquid coal as a energy independence strategy conflict with his stated desire to deal with global warming?

If in fact it is Rudy vs. Hillary, this will be one of the top-tier issues of contention.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.