Greenwashing is out, brownwashing is in. These days, GOP politicians are scrambling to distance themselves from past environment-friendly statements, initiatives, and votes. (Thanks to Grist reader Gary Wockner for naming this trend.)

Check out the top 10 offenders. And watch for a lot more Republicans to join the club as we head toward the 2012 election. 


Scott Brown.Photo: lukexmartin10.  Scott Brown

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

U.S. senator from Massachusetts

Before: “Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine,” he said in 2008 when, as a member of the state Senate, he voted in favor of his state joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon-trading initiative in the Northeast. “Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.”

After: “I think the globe is always heating and cooling. It’s a natural way of ebb and flow. The thing that concerns me lately is some of the information I’ve heard about potential tampering with some of the information,” he said in December 2009, as the “Climategate” faux-scandal was raging. In April 2011, he voted to strip the U.S. EPA of its authority to regulate carbon dioxide.


Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Chris Christie.Photo: Bob Jagendorf9.  Chris Christie

Governor of New Jersey

Before: “In a Christie administration, we can and will enforce environmental protections while encouraging emerging industries to grow our economy and create sustainable jobs,” he said in October 2009, while reveling in the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

After: In May 2011, he pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the only operational cap-and-trade system in the country. “The whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It is a failure,” he said — after he undermined its effectiveness by raiding $65 million from a RGGI-generated fund that was supposed to support energy efficiency and renewable energy. His pullout could “doom U.S. climate policy,” Brad Plumer speculates. On June 7, 2011, Christie said he planned to cut the state’s renewable-energy goal from 30 percent by 2021 to 22.5 percent.

Read more about Christie and environmental issues.


Jon Huntsman.Photo: Christine Lu8.  Jon Huntsman

Presidential candidate, former governor of Utah

Before: “[W]e must put a value on carbon,” he said in October 2008. “Until we put a value on carbon, we’re never going to be able to get serious about dealing with climate change longer term. Now, putting a value on carbon either suggests that you go to a carbon tax or you get a cap-and-trade system underway.”

After: “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working,” he said in May 2011. “Much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”

Read more about Huntman and climate.


Paul LePage.Photo: Paul LePage for Governor campaign7.  Paul LePage

Governor of Maine

Before: In 2006, as mayor of Waterville, Maine, he signed his city on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and push for broader climate action.

After: In September 2010, while running for governor, he said, “I don’t know [if] global warming is a myth or not. … I will say this: I do not believe in the Al Gore science.”

Read more about LePage and climate.



John McCain.Photo: twinkletoez6.  John McCain

U.S. senator from Arizona, former presidential nominee

Before: He cosponsored the first climate bills in the U.S. Senate in the mid-noughties, and made cap-and-trade a key part of his platform during his 2008 run for president. “Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring,” he said in May 2008. “We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.”

After: In 2009, he derided cap-and-trade as “cap-and-tax.” In 2010, he questioned whether global warming is “man-made or natural.”


Mark Kirk.5.  Mark Kirk

U.S. senator from Illinois

Before: In June 2009, while a member of the U.S. House, he was one of just eight Republicans to vote in favor of the Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill. “There is now a growing scientific consensus that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide affects average temperatures,” he wrote in a letter to a constituent at the time. 

After: Just three months later, while running for a Senate seat, he said he would oppose the same bill if it came up for a vote in the Senate. As he explained in January 2011, “The consensus behind the climate-change bill collapsed and then further deteriorated with the personal and political collapse of Vice President [Al] Gore.”


Sarah Palin.Photo: eskimojoe4.  Sarah Palin

Potential presidential candidate, former Alaska governor

Before before: “I’m not one … who would attribute [global warming] to being man-made,” she said in August 2008, just before being picked as John McCain’s running mate.

Before: In September 2008, after being picked, she said, “I believe that man’s activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change. … John McCain and I agree that we gotta do something about it.”

After: Once McCain and Palin lost the election, she was back to form. In April 2010, she spoke derisively of “this snake-oil science stuff that is based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff.”

Read more about Palin and climate.


Fred Upton.3.  Fred Upton

U.S. rep from Michigan

Before: “Climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions,” he said in April 2009. And his website declared, “I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions.”

After: But in December 2010, while angling to become chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he wrote, “On Jan. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency will officially begin regulating the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This move represents an unconstitutional power grab that will kill millions of jobs … This presumes that carbon is a problem in need of regulation. We are not convinced.” And a few days later, he said, “I don’t think that we have to regulate carbon to the degree we have a carbon tax or you have a cap-and-trade system.”


Tim Pawlenty.Photo: Gage Skidmore2.  Tim Pawlenty

Presidential candidate, former governor of Minnesota

Before: “I support a reasonable cap-and-trade system,” he said in February 2008.

After: “As to climate change, or more specifically cap-and-trade, I’ve just come out and admitted it — look, it was a mistake, it was stupid,” he said in March 2011.

Read more about Pawlenty and climate.



Newt Gingrich.Photo: @mjb1.  Newt Gingrich

Presidential candidate, former speaker of the U.S. House

Before: He cozied up with Nancy Pelosi in 2008 to issue a joint call for climate action in an ad for Al Gore’s group Alliance for Climate Protection.

After: “It’s an act of egotism for humans to think we’re a primary source of climate change,” he told Grist in June 2010. And in April 2011, he said, “I would not adopt massively expensive plans over a theory.”

Read more about Gingrich and climate.