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Cox, Bynum-Coleman Offer Sharp Contrasts on Climate Change

Speaker Cox and Democratic challenger Shelia Bynum-Colemanand
Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, left, and his Democratic challenger Shelia Bynum-Coleman, right, at VPM studios on Wednesday, October 9th.

GOP Speaker of the House Kirk Cox and his Democratic challenger, Shelia Bynum-Coleman, laid bare policy differences spanning minimum wage to abortion in their first debate on Wednesday hosted by VPM.

The contrast came into focus when the candidates were asked about whether they believed climate change was happening, and if so, what should be done about it.

Speaker Cox didn’t directly address the first part of that question.

“We know climate change obviously is debated a lot,” Cox said, before turning attention to legislation he’s helped pass related to conservation, clean energy, and funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

An overwhelming majority of climate scientists -- at least 97%, according to research cited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- agree that humans are causing global climate change.

“We can do a lot of arguments about climate change, but I do think we need to address an issue that's real to a lot of people,” Cox said. “What I don't want to see is energy tax policies that just blow up the taxpayer.”

Cox was referencing a regional cap-and-trade program called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that’s opposed by Republicans, who say it will threaten Virginia’s business-friendly climate and increase energy bills. Cox said the plan would quickly push Virginia away from reliance on coal and natural gas on a “very unrealistic timetable.”

Bynum-Coleman said Virginia should join RGGI without elaborating on why. And she said she agreed with the scientific consensus around climate change.

“I believe that it’s happening,” she said. “All of the science and the data's telling us that that is happening.”

Bynum-Coleman is Cox’s first serious challenger since he won the seat in 1989.