WASHINGTON -- Is Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who would like to be the Republican presidential contender in 2016, softening his stance on climate change?
"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said last year.
But as the Palm Beach Post reports, Rubio took a more diplomatic approach Saturday in response to questions about the encyclical on climate change that the head of the Roman Catholic Church issued last week.
Rubio, who is Catholic, told reporters he finds it “ironic that a lot of the same liberals who are touting the encyclical on climate change ignore multiple pronouncements of this pope on the definition of marriage and the sanctity of life.”
But he did not criticize the Pope for weighing in on climate, as some of his fellow Republicans, including Jeb Bush, have done.
"I have no problem with what the pope did. He is a moral authority and as a moral authority is reminding us of our obligation to be good caretakers of the planet," said Rubio. "I'm a political leader and my job as a policymaker is to act in the common good. And I do believe it's in the common good to protect our environment."
"But I also believe it's in the common good to protect our economy. There are people all over this planet and in this country who have emerged from poverty in large respect because of the availability of affordable energy," he argued. "It creates industries. It makes the cost of living lower. And we have to take that into account as well."
Other politicians have argued that "affordable energy" -- by which they generally mean fossil-fuel energy -- is necessary to the economy. But numerous studies have found that there are also economic consequences of allowing climate change to continue unchecked.
Rubio declined to go into detail about what, if any, role human activity plays in global warming, arguing that for policymakers the question "is not whether I believe humans have contributed 10 percent, 50 percent or 90 percent." The question, he said, is "what can we do about it and what impact will it have on the rest of our country and the rest of our lives.”
Rubio is still far from where the vast majority of scientists fall on the human role in climate change. But his positioning does seem less stridently anti-climate science than previous statements have indicated.