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No, Marco Rubio didn't quite deny climate-change. At least not yet


The question, put by ABC's Jonathan Karl, was straightforward: "Let me get this straight: You do not think that human activity – the production of CO2 – has caused warming to our planet."

But Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t give a straightforward answer to the yes-or-no question.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying,” Rubio said on This Week. “And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”

So Rubio’s not saying he doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, but he’s disputing “the way these scientists are portraying” it. 

Karl, in closing his “This Week” profile of Rubio, didn’t follow up by asking whether that was a yes or a no. And he attributed Rubio’s presidential ambitions to “talk like that that Rubio hopes will appeal to the conservatives he’d need to win the conservative nomination.”

Sure. But make no mistake, Rubio has long flirted with climate-change denialism. Rubio has been giving climate-change “talk like that” since at least 2007. On Aug. 25 of that year, then-Florida House Speaker Rubio penned a Miami Herald op-ed that bashed then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s cap-and-trade climate-change plans as “European-style big government mandates” that could have “negative consequences.”

Lauding Crist's “willingness to spend political capital tackling such an important issue,” Rubio said the approach would “have little, if any, impact on our environment and make life in Florida more expensive… Floridians are already paying too much in taxes and insurance. The last thing we need is an increase in our utility bills.”

Rubio then and now is playing a cautious game with climate change, never outwardly saying that human kind was not playing a role in global warming.

In 2009, the height of Obama’s popularity, Rubio said he believed cap and trade was “inevitable” and that “Florida should position itself for what I believe is inevitable.. do everything it can to be an early complier so it that can access early compliance funds and so that it can help influence what that cap and trade looks like at the federal level. So I'm in favor of giving the Department of Environmental Protection a mandate that they go out and design a cap and trade or a carbon tax program and bring it back to Legislature for ratification sometime in the next two years.”

A year later, U.S. Senate candidate Rubio (who beat Crist in the U.S. Senate race) would not have even countenanced such a plan.

And when Crist allies said he was flip-flopping, Rubio and his camp pointed out the cleverness of Rubio’s statements and cooperation on global warming legislation: He made sure to show enough support for it outwardly while insisting nothing happen until any plan return to the Legislature – which is dominated by Republicans where a significant number are climate-change deniers.

So does Rubio believe some weather events are attributable to man-made climate change and, if so, what percent?

We asked this of his media shop Wednesday and got back the standard Rubio reply: “He’s not a meteorologist.”

For years, Rubio has said that – only to then suggest he doesn’t believe what a majority of climate scientists and their research say about climate change.

For the past week, the Democratic National Committee has called Rubio a climate-change denier. First statement the DNC singled out was this Rubio line given to CNN “I think it's an enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we now read about is -- or the majority of them -- are attributable to human activity.”

Actually, that might be true. But only because of one word “every.”

CNN didn’t follow up. Just like ABC. So if you wonder why politicians prefer TV news interviews, consider that.

Like CNN, ABC asked about climate change in reaction to a report this week showing more evidence for man-made climate change. But time and again, Rubio wasn’t asked specifics and he gave answers that allowed him to shift the focus – away from whether and how much he believed in man-made global warming and toward the safer ground where he criticized the remedies for climate-change.

“I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” Rubio said (he wasn’t asked, however, about geo-engineering). “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man made activity. I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving. And natural disasters have always existed.”

The ABC interview that aired on This Week didn’t include this quote that it posted on the web and that indicates Rubio believes the climate is changing:

“The fact is that these events that we’re talking about are impacting us, because we built very expensive structures in Florida and other parts of the country near areas that are prone to hurricanes. We’ve had hurricanes in Florida forever. And the question is, what do we do about the fact that we have built expensive structures, real estate and population centers, near those vulnerable areas? I have no problem with taking mitigation activity.”