Acknowledging a problem vs. fixing a problem

A couple of weeks ago, Jon Huntsman raised a few eyebrows when he conceded that he thinks climate change is real. Yesterday, it was just as surprising when Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy and said the same thing.

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

I’m not sure which is worse: the fact that a basic acknowledgement of reality is considered encouraging and newsworthy, or the fact that this basic acknowledgement of reality will likely be problematic for Romney among Republican voters.

But while I’ll gladly give Romney credit for being in touch with reality, at least on this issue, the next question is what he plans to do about it. To my mind, there are basically three categories:

1. Those who deny the problem.

2. Those who recognize the problem.

3. Those who support fixing the problem.

Huntsman falls into the second category, saying that he’d like to address the climate crisis, but he opposes all of the measures that would make a difference. Romney appears to fall into the same category.

As Josh Nelson explained yesterday, Romney wants to reduce emissions (which is good), but remains “opposed to doing anything productive to solve the problem” (which is bad).

This still strikes me as the worst of all possible positions. At least the climate deniers have a good excuse for opposing solutions: they don’t see a problem and consider the evidence part of an elaborate conspiracy cooked up by communists to destroy America’s way of life.

Romney and Huntsman want to split the difference — believe the science but choose not to do anything about it.

This seems unlikely to impress anyone. Those who recognize the problem won’t care for the negligent attitude, and those who believe the problem is a “hoax” won’t care for the acknowledgement of reality.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.