Republican presidential candidates at a debate in Iowa in August 2011, from left: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; businessman Herman Cain; congressman Ron Paul; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Rep. Michele Bachmann; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Charlie Neibergall / The Associated Press
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Many Republican candidates are challenging the government’s role in protecting the environment, and showing that Obama isn’t the only change they just can’t believe in.

While 74 percent of Americans are worried about climate change, according to a March study, all but two of the Republican candidates for president have expressed skepticism about climate change. And while the Environmental Protection Agency was created four decades ago by a leading Republican, some of today’s GOP candidates want to strip it of authority or shut it down almost entirely. Records of some of the candidates show their stances aren’t just the stuff of campaign trail speeches.

Many if not all scientists and climate specialists agree that the Earth’s climate is changing and that humans have driven those changes. Both the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the leading international and domestic climate research organizations on climate change, report similar conclusions. “Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years,” noted the U.S. research program in a 2009 report. “This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

Of the front-runners, only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has gone on the record as accepting climate change; he stresses the importance of reducing pollution that contributes to global warming. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry take the opposite view, criticizing the EPA, which Bachmann vows to shut down except for overseeing conservation. Congress and President Richard Nixon, a Republican, created the agency in 1970, in response to growing public demand for cleaner air, water and land.

All the campaign warming over climate, of course, may actually be about something else. As Michael McKenna, a prominent energy lobbyist and Republican strategist, has observed, climate change is more of a “surrogate” issue, “a totem for how you feel about large government versus small government.”

Here’s how the candidates stack up on the issue. Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann doesn’t exactly make the most-popular list among environmental groups. The League of Conservation Voters lists her in an unfavorable position in its annual ranking of last year’s “Dirty Dozen” – environmentally unfriendly politicos. Bachmann has been outspoken against climate change. In a recent campaign speech, she called the science behind climate change “manufactured.” She has vowed to lock the doors and shut the lights off at the EPA, except on conservation issues.

Bachmann has voted a number of times to limit the regulation of greenhouse gases, which scientists say contribute to climate change. In 2009, Bachmann voted against regulating carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. And this April, Bachmann voted for a House bill that prevents the agency from regulating greenhouse gases.

Rick Perry

As iWatch News has reported, Rick Perry has a Texas-sized record of resisting the EPA, even after the nation’s highest court rules that he should follow its decision. In an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, Perry said he prays for the President every day to “ask that his EPA back down these regulations that are causing businesses to hesitate to spend money.”

In this video from the campaign trail Aug 17, Perry says, “there are substantial number of scientists that have been manipulating data,” and that he doesn’t believe in manmade global warming.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul has slowly ratcheted his rhetoric towards skepticism, from once appearing to consider some of global warming related to human activities to outright doubt. The environmental blog, Grist, chronicled his hardening path. Paul has opposed the EPA, too. In a 2007 interview, he told Grist and Outside Magazine that he wanted to dissolve the agency – because it takes “a bureaucratic, intrusive approach and it favors those who have political connections.” Paul’s campaign website states that he’d prefer courts to deal with environmental issues.

Paul, who bills himself as a pro-energy candidate, aims to remove restrictions on oil drilling, the use of coal and nuclear power, and he wants to make tax credits available for buying and producing alternative fuel. His legislative background includes consistent support for oil and natural gas interests; in April, he voted for legislation that would prevent further taxes on the energy industry, and last year voted against offshore drilling regulations.

Rick Santorum

Santorum views the focus on climate change as part of an attempt by government to justify more regulation. On Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, Santorum called the idea that people were at fault for change in climate “patently absurd.”

In 2006, Santorum, like Bachmann, was named a member of the League of Conservation Voter’s “Dirty Dozen.” In 2005, he voted against including coal and oil smokestacks from the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean mercury rule.

Herman Cain

To Herman Cain, the issue isn’t climactic conditions, but how important they are. Economic issues are more critical, he argues.

“I don’t believe global warming is real,” he told CBS News in an interview. “Do we have climate change? Yes. Is it a crisis? No.” Cain said there’s no reason for panic. “The real science doesn’t say that we have any major crisis or threat when it comes to climate change.”

Newt Gingrich

Gingrich famously worked on a campaign against climate change with Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. Now that he’s in the race, though, he’s backpedaled and, according to USA Today, says he regrets the 2008 commercial.

In January, Politico reported that Gingrich would like to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency in favor of what he calls the “Environmental Solutions Agency.”

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has taken heat for being a climate change believer. In this video of a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Romney expresses his belief that humans have contributed to global warming. “I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouses gasses,” Romney said.

In 2004, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney introduced a statewide Climate Protection Plan, billed as “an initial step in a coordinated effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Two years later, however, the governor stepped away from a regional plan to reduce emissions by 10 percent by 2019 – because the plan would cost too much. “New England has the highest energy rates in the country,” he told The Boston Globe, “and [the plan] would cost us more.”

Jon Huntsman

Last week, Huntsman took to Twitter to go offensive on climate change: “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” He followed that up with an attack on Rick Perry on “This Week” when he said, “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party – we have a huge problem.”

As Utah’s governor, Huntsman in 2007 endorsed a plan to reduce Utah’s greenhouse gas production by 15 percent as part of the Western Climate Initiative, and pushed for cap-and-trade policies to limit carbon emissions. He even appeared in an environmental group’s TV ad urging Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Huntsman also vetoed 2006 legislation that would have allowed a nuclear waste repository to be built in Utah that could have netted billions of dollars. In a veto letter to the Utah legislation, Huntsman said he would continue “to resist efforts to turn Utah into our nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground.”

But in an interview with Time earlier this year, Huntsman said now is not the time to make environment the priority. “Putting additional burdens on the pillars of growth right now is counter-productive,” he said.

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