SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says he will host the first "legitimate" debate about whether humans contribute to global warming later this year, highlighting skepticism on the topic that is quickly coming to define his new administration.
Despite widespread acceptance in the worldwide scientific community and in the U.S. government, the Republican says the debate over humans' role in climate change is far from over.
"For anybody to say that the debate is over is to not be out in the marketplace and see that the debate is raging," Herbert told reporters following the taping of his monthly televised news conference Thursday.
Herbert has been governor for less than three weeks, previously serving as lieutenant governor. He succeeded Jon Huntsman, who has said he believes human-caused global warming is real. Huntsman, also a Republican, resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China and pledged to work with that country to address global warming by reducing carbon emissions.
Herbert says he's working to bring together people on both sides of the issue so the state can forge good policies in the future.
He said fears over human involvement could put Utah in jeopardy economically by preparing for a cataclysmic event that may never occur. Herbert has said protecting the environment and energy development are not mutually exclusive goals, but he has yet to say how he would achieve both.
"Let's have a healthy discussion and develop policy that makes sense going forward on some kind of cost-to-benefit analysis. We all want clean air. We all want clean water. We all want to take good care of our home," he said. "I don't care, really, when it comes down to man-caused global warming. Lets just take care of our planet. Be good stewards of the Earth and I think everybody can be happy. We don't need to have the big bogeyman as if that's the only reason to take care of our planet."
Herbert said he would likely make an announcement in the next 30 days about hosting some type of conference or symposium on the topic.
"I am going to work with others and I think for the first time have a legitimate debate, with civility, have a discussion on climate change, man's impact on the climate and global warming," he said. "What is it? How much is it? And what do you do about it, including cost-to-benefit analysis and making sure that we have good science that dictates or leads us toward good policy because I can tell you it has not always happened."
It was unclear what policies Herbert may be waiting on the conference to make a decision on.
Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said Friday that Herbert has no plans to withdraw Utah from the Western Climate Initiative. The initiative, entered into by Huntsman, would establish a regional market to trade carbon emissions credits, allowing industries that emit greenhouse gases to buy and sell credits for their emissions. The goal is to cut the region's carbon emissions to below 2005 levels by 2020, a roughly 15 percent reduction.
Cap-and-trade agreements have been lambasted by many Republicans as an energy tax in disguise. Many Utah lawmakers were furious with Huntsman for signing it without their permission.
Herbert's questioning of global warming is likely to earn him points with conservative lawmakers and GOP delegates as he heads into his first legislative session in January. In May, 3,500 Republican delegates will decide whether Herbert will get the party's nomination for governor ahead of a special election in 2010 to fill out the remainder of Huntsman's term.
Herbert appeared to be making an appeal to his conservative base during his news conference taping Thursday, criticizing former Vice President Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."
"I have seen it and it's inconvenient. And there is some inconvenient mistruths, and I think in that, that we're finding with new science that there's additional point of view," he said. "I think science needs to have that continued discussion and debate."
Herbert did not specify what "mistruths" were in the film.