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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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Sen. Ron Johnson calls himself an "environmentalist," says he's neutral on climate change
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Johnson on climate change: "I don't have a belief one way or the other."
Credit:Judith Davidoff

Since taking office three years ago, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has not been bashful about expressing his views on climate change.

"I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change," Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in April 2010. "It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination.... It's far more likely that it's sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time."

Yet when asked at a Madison Rotary luncheon whether he believed humans were contributing to global warming and climate change, Johnson took a neutral position. "I don't have a belief one way or the other," he told the crowd of some 300 Rotarians. "I'm willing to accept the science. I'm willing to accept the facts. What I'm not willing to accept is that until we know conclusively what's doing it and if any action we take would have any kind of measurable impact, I don't think we should be spending trillions of dollars unilaterally."

A follow-up call for clarification to Johnson's office was not immediately returned.

Johnson made headlines in recent weeks when he said the League of Conservation Voters was on an "environmental jihad" for identifying him and other lawmakers as "climate change deniers" in an ad campaign. Johnson made the charge in a fundraising email, also calling the group "one of the many attack dog groups used by President Obama, the Democrats and the extreme left to weaken, defeat and silence conservatives."

When asked at Rotary why he compared the League "to a group of religious fanatics that murder people as part of a holy war," Johnson defended his choice of words, saying the proper definition of a jihad is "somebody crusading for a principle or belief."

Johnson acknowledged that his fundraising email was meant to "whip up sentiment" to help support his viewpoint, but rejected the suggestion the League was a mainstream organization. "I don't believe this is a middle-of-the road environmental group."

And Johnson said he viewed himself as a "strong environmentalist. I love a pristine environment. I am a fisherman. I get my water out of a well. I don't want groundwater contamination. I think most Americans are environmentalists."

But he said he parts way with those who "support policies that would cripple the economy." He says policies that hike energy prices hurt families and are "extreme positions."

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