Senate candidate Marco Rubio said Friday that he doesn't accept the scientific evidence for global warming - a stance Rubio has hinted at before, but which the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist said is a switch for Rubio.
Rubio denied it's a change in his position on the issue.
Climate change in general, and specifically of a "cap-and-trade" plan to limit carbon emissions, has been an issue in the campaign between Crist and Rubio for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
In an interview with the Tribune on that subject Friday, Rubio called Crist "a believer in man-made global warming."
"I don't think there's the scientific evidence to justify it," Rubio said.
Asked whether he accepts the scientific evidence that the global climate is undergoing change, he responded, "The climate is always changing. The climate is never static. The question is whether it's caused by man-made activity and whether it justifies economically destructive government regulation."
Rubio hasn't previously denied global warming outright in published statements on the issue.
In December, he told The Miami Herald, "I'm not a scientist. I'm not qualified to make that decision. There's a significant scientific dispute about that."
In an interview with the American Spectator, which used only paraphrase and not direct quotes, Rubio said he was not prepared to challenge the scientific evidence of global warming, but that the evidence didn't justify a cap-and-trade plan.
The Crist camp accuses Rubio of flip-flopping on the issue because while Rubio criticizes Crist for backing a cap-and-trade plan, Rubio also led the state House in 2008 to pass legislation mandating a state cap-and-trade plan.
"If the climate's changing, so are his positions on issues," said Eric Eikenberg, Crist campaign manager. "This is the flavor of the month," an attempt by Rubio to appeal to the right wing, he said.
In a 2007 speech on the issue to the House, Rubio said, "Florida has the opportunity to pursue bold energy policies, not just because they are good for our environment, but because people can actually make money at doing it. This nation, and ultimately the world, is headed towards emission caps and energy diversification."
But Rubio says his position has not changed on the issue.
The 2008 legislation, he said, was a response to Crist's attempt to enact a cap-and-trade plan by executive order - a plan Rubio bashes as "California-style" or "European-style."
Rubio, then state House speaker with control over House legislation, said rather than allow Crist's plan to take effect, he backed legislation to require the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a "market-based" plan to comply with a potential federal plan.
Jennifer Collins, a meteorologist at the University of South Florida, said it's true the global climate isn't static, as Rubio said, but added, "The evidence is that there is a slow, long-term warming, and that some of that is attributable to humans."