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Wagner Updates His Tune On Climate Change

Matt Rourke
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner at rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018.

The Republican gubernatorial nominee is updating his rhetoric on climate change.

Former York County Senator Scott Wagner and running mate Jeff Bartos have both acknowledged the scientific consensus that the rapid warming is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

In the past, Wagner has received flak for making untrue statements about the science of climate change.

In the early days of his campaign—and after noting “I haven’t been in a science class in a long time”—he hypothesized that “the Earth moves closer to the sun every year” and “humans have warm bodies, so is heat coming off?”

In an interaction last month with a town hall attendee he called “young and naïve,” he reiterated, he’s not running to be a scientist.

But at a more recent event in York, Wagner largely turned his responses away from what causes climate change entirely.

After saying the debate is settled on climate change and that its been spurred by humans, he called a 100 percent renewable economy “not realistic” — noting he doesn’t want to subsidize clean energy.

“If anybody thinks that, as governor, I could go into the governor’s office and flip a switch and change all this -- I can’t,” he said.

Instead of broader policy changes to address climate, he focused on infrastructure updates to handle new weather patterns—bringing up incidents in which, overburdened with heavy rain, Harrisburg’s sewer system allowed raw sewage to flow into the Susquehanna River.

“That’s a big problem … and it’s happening in other cities,” he said. “We have a lot of outdated infrastructure in Pennsylvania, and it’s breathtaking.”

Wagner and Bartos said the free market will yield cleaner solutions. They also touted natural gas as cleaner than coal.

By contrast, Gov. Tom Wolf has made reduction of emissions from the natural gas industry a stated goal.

Efforts have included methane standards for new oil and gas sites and halting the leasing of state park land for drilling—though environmental advocates have criticized him for not doing enough.