GOP candidates point to China when asked about threat of climate change

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GOP presidential candidates former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed to emissions from China and promised to eliminate the Biden administration’s environmental policies when asked about the threat of climate change at an Iowa debate Wednesday.

Moderator Jake Tapper noted that 2023 was the warmest year ever recorded and that DeSantis has taken action to improve resilience in Florida to rising sea levels but asked what, if anything, the governor would do to address greenhouse gas emissions, the primary cause of climate change.

DeSantis responded with an attack on U.S. climate envoy John Kerry for traveling on a private jet and vowed to eliminate the Biden administration’s renewable energy subsidies, while also pointing to China’s status as the world’s number-one emitter. In a July 2023 House hearing, Kerry testified that his wife formerly owned a private jet that has since been sold.

China is still considered a developing nation under the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement due to its recent industrialization relative to Western powers. Kerry has also said any international emissions reduction solution must involve China agreeing to reduce its carbon output.

Asked what he would do as president to address the underlying causes of climate change, DeSantis said he would “innovate,” clarifying that he would emphasize natural gas development. Florida rejected over $300 million in federal funds to reduce tailpipe emissions last year, the only state to do so.

Haley, meanwhile, touted her role in withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris agreement, which the Biden administration has since reentered. Haley has also vowed to undo subsidies for renewables.

Both candidates attacked Biden administration standards to phase out new internal combustion engine vehicles, with Haley pointing to lack of charging infrastructure and the strain on roads from heavier electric vehicles. She had earlier called for the elimination of federal gas taxes, which fund the upkeep of highways.

Despite their attacks on Biden’s policies, both Haley and DeSantis went further in acknowledging the threat of climate change than they did in the first GOP debate last year, when neither raised their hands in response to a question about whether they acknowledged humans contribute to the phenomenon.

The Republican frontrunner, former President Trump, has falsely claimed climate change is a “hoax” and ordered U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement. Trump was not present at the debate, participating in a Fox town hall Wednesday night.

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