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Did Kasich Just Do an About-Face on Climate Change?

Eric Pianin

Maybe it’s because he is still feeling his way as a late entrant into the GOP presidential campaign, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich did a fairly dramatic about-face over the weekend on the politically charged issue of climate change.

Kasich, a former House Budget Committee chair and Wall Street business executive, has positioned himself as a “kinder, gentler” conservative than Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and the dozen other Republicans running for the 2016 presidential nomination. So it wasn’t surprising that he would take a more moderate stand on global warming during the first nationally televised GOP presidential debate Thursday evening.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know About John Kasich

Kasich, a devout Christian, declared during the two-hour debate sponsored by Fox News that climate change is a real problem requiring government and society to protect the “creation that the Lord has given us.”

While the vast majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail are highly skeptical of President Obama’s campaign to curb industrial carbon emissions to prevent the disastrous long term effects of global warming on the environment and economy, Kasich appeared to be one of the few who took the threat seriously.

He emphasized the importance of unity and cooperation, saying at one point that “we’ve got to unite our country again, because we’re stronger when we are united and we are weaker when we are divided.”

Just a few days later, though, after winning plaudits for his Thursday night performance – with some even favorably comparing his views on environmental threats to those of Pope Francis – Kasich sounded much like a climate-change doubter.

Related: Does Kasich Have a Chance? How He Can Catch Up to the GOP

During an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Kasich told moderator Chuck Todd that “I think man absolutely affects the environment, but as to whether, you know, what the impact is, the overall impact, I think that’s a legitimate debate.”

Kasich went on to say that in Ohio, “we preciously take care of Lake Erie, and we’ve reduced emissions by 30 percent over the last ten years.”

“We believe in alternative energy,” he added. “So of course we have to be sensitive to it, but we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs, based on some theory that’s not proven.”

According to National Journal, the Kasich 2016 campaign attempted to clarify his remarks following his appearance on “Meet the Press.” "The governor has long believed climate change is real and we need to do something about it,” according to the statement. “The debate over exact percentages of why it is happening is less important than what can be done about it. We know it is real, we know man has an impact, and we know we need to do something."

A number of prominent presidential candidates -- including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul -- are climate change doubters or deniers. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is one of the few who unquestionably accepts scientific evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a principal cause of global warming, and has sharply criticized his party for lacking a comprehensive environmental platform.

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