Globe Editorial

Charlie Baker’s willful ignorance

February 11, 2010

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CHANGES IN climate caused by greenhouse gases are the premier environmental issue of our day, so it is surprising to see Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker evading questions on the issue with feeble claims about not being smart enough.

The former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care first ducked a question on the human role in global warming after a speech last week at Suffolk University Law School. “I don’t think whether I believe that or not matters in this conversation,’’ Baker said. When a Globe reporter quizzed him further the next day, the Harvard-educated head of administration and finance under Governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci pled ignorance: “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t. You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question.’’ Asked for more clarification yesterday, he again declined to state a conclusion but promised to read the 2007 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Baker’s views actually matter a great deal. Along with California, Massachusetts is a leader in technologies, from high-tech batteries to cellulosic ethanol, that promise to make the world less dependent on fuels that emit the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. A governor who has not informed himself on the science that links carbon dioxide to global warming is going to be an unconvincing proponent of those technologies.

Baker would do well to listen to fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I say the debate is over,’’ the California governor said in 2005. “We know the science, we see the threat and we know the time for action is now.’’ Terminator, we have a student for you.

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