Only two candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, in the second-tier Republican presidential debate on Thursday have accepted that climate change is real and man-made. That doesn't necessarily mean they support policies to mitigate the problem, and Graham even managed to use a question about climate change to push his hawkish foreign policy.
"You worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change—something you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans," Bill Hemmer asked. “How can they trust you based on that record?”
“You can trust me to do the following: that when I get on the stage with Hillary Clinton, we won't be debating about the science," Graham replied. "We will be debating about the solutions. In her world, cap-and-trade would dominate. That will destroy the economy in the name of helping the environment. In my world, we would focus on energy independence and a clean environment.”
Graham’s soundbyte might sound promising to environmentalists—if you ignore his dig at cap-and-trade—until he gets to his main point. “When it comes to fossil fuels, we’re going to find more here and use less,” he continued. “Over time we’re going to become energy independent. I am tired of sending $300 billion overseas to buy oil from people who hate our guts.”
As Graham reminded us, he supports policies detrimental to the environment. He supports more coal and oil production domestically, and said later in the debate that Clinton is “not going to build the Keystone pipeline. I will.” He also ignored his own record in crafting a failed cap-and-trade proposal in the Senate, though he later walked away from it.
Even though Graham's answer was far from a serious pitch on tackling climate change, he did acknowledge one thing: the need for a presidential candidate to consider the environment in his or her platform. "The choice between a weak economy and a strong environment is a false choice," he said. "A healthy environment, a strong economy, and an energy independent America—that would be the purpose of my presidency."
Correction: A previous version of this article said Fox host Bret Baier asked the question to Graham. It was Bill Hemmer.