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GOP Senate candidate won't answer on climate change

Senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, (R-Colo.), left, gestures during a debate with incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, (D-Colo.), in Denver on Oct. 6, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)
Senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, (R-Colo.), left, gestures during a debate with incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, (D-Colo.), in Denver on Oct. 6, 2014.

Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner became the latest Republican to dodge climate change questions on Tuesday, dancing around a debate query for so long he earned boos from the crowd and repeated reprimands from the moderator.

Gardner has repeatedly denied the existence of climate change: he voted against an amendment earlier this year that would have acknowledged that climate change is man-made, but he appears to be particularly struggling with the issue during his campaign for U.S. Senate. On Monday, he admitted that he believes pollution contributes to climate change, only to lean towards denial  again on Tuesday night. He and incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall are neck-in-neck in the polls: a recent CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll showed Udall up by three, while a Quinnipiac poll released mid-September showed Gardner up by eight points. 

Despite growing evidence, extreme weather patterns, and devastating effects on the environment, more than a half of the country either believes  climate change is natural or doesn't think there's enough evidence to prove that climate change is man-made. Gardner's indecisive answer signals the country's divide over the issue, particularly in the wake of President Obama's executive order that the country must reduce its emissions significantly in the years to come. 

Photo Essay: The Arctic's devastating transformation

During the lightning round, yes-or-no portion of The Denver Post debate between Gardner and Udall, the Republican was asked “do you believe humans are contributing significantly to climate change?”

“Well, I’ve said all along climate is changing,” Gardner began, earning reprimands from the moderators to answer in one word.

“This is an important issue and I don't think you can say yes or no," Gardner fired back, earning boos from the crowd and another reprimand.

“I believe climate is changing, but I disagree to the extent that’s been in the news that man is changing—” he started again, earning a third reprimand and a reminder that he would have time later to explain his answer if he wanted.

“Look, I think we ought to be able to provide an answer. This is a serious debate, we’re both running for the United States Senate. This is a serious issue and I don’t think we should shortchange serious issues with yes or no answers without being able to talk about them now,” he said.

“These yes are no questions are meant to be answered yes or no, because they should come from a core belief that you would hold,” the moderator said. “We’ll move to the senator.”

“Do you think humans are contributing significantly to climate change?” a moderator asked Udall.

“Yes," the Democrat said. While Udall's answer was better received by the debate crowd, he too side-stepped a question on Obama's job performance to the chagrin of the moderators as he -- like many other Democrats -- seek to distance themselves from their party's unpopular president.