Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the 16th Republican to join the 2016 presidential race on Tuesday, when he announced his candidacy at his alma mater Ohio State University. Kasich brings a rather centrist view on issues like marriage equality and Medicaid to the GOP race, but also an extremely conservative history of implementing restrictive measures against abortion and family planning in Ohio. However, Kasich's views on climate change is also surprising. Unlike many of his Republican colleagues, Kasich actually believes that climate change is real — but don't expect him to get up in arms about it any time soon.
Back in 2012, at an energy conference hosted by The Hill, Kasich described his concern for the environment, but simultaneously said that he did not want to "overreact" to climate change.
I am a believer — my goodness I am a Republican — I happen to believe there is a problem with climate change. I don’t want to overreact to it, I can't measure it all, but I respect the creation that the Lord has given us and I want to make sure we protect it. ... We can't overreact to it and make things up, but it is something we have to recognize is a problem.
So Kasich acknowledges that climate change is a problem — that is certainly an important step. But despite this, he does not seem to recognize the pressing nature of this problem. With new research from climate scientist James Hansen set to appear in the Atmosphere Chemistry and Physics Discussion journal this week, simply saying that climate change exists is inadequate. This becomes even clearer when we take a look at Kasich's track record on climate change policies. At that same 2012 conference, he was unapologetic about Ohio's stance on coal, despite the fact that his state ranks fifth nationwide in total carbon emissions.
We are going to continue to work on cleaning coal, but I want to tell you, we are going to dig it, we are going to clean it, and we are going to burn it in Ohio, and we are not going to apologize for it.
And just last month, he was filmed at a conference saying that despite being sensitive about environmental issues, he does not think the environment should be "worshiped" because "that's called pantheism." In that same video, he lauded the Pope for being concerned about the environment and said that Ohio is working to reduce emissions, but that we should not get "carried away."
Kasich clearly cares about protecting the environment to some degree, but his track record seems to contradict his concerns. Last year, he signed a bill into law that, according to The Guardian, would institute "a two-year freeze on measures requiring power companies to obtain some of their electricity from wind and solar power, and reduce demand for electricity." Additionally, he seems more interested in talking about India and China's responses to climate change than that of his own country; at a New Hampshire town hall last week, Kasich said that combating climate change shouldn't come at the expense of jobs.
Do I think that we should use common sense and do some things that protect it? Absolutely. Do I think we oughta throw lots of people out of work and let other countries not be as sensitive as we are to it? No, I wouldn’t think that would make much sense.
Ultimately, it doesn't seem that Kasich is the environmentally friendly Republican candidate that you might hope. Words only go so far, and his insistence that climate change is important isn't enough considering his opposition to actually doing anything about it.
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