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Erik Paulsen discovers that climate change is real after all

Congressman Erik Paulsen looks to the skies, which until now were thought to enjoy the company of greenhouse gases.

Congressman Erik Paulsen looks to the skies, which until now were thought to enjoy the company of greenhouse gases. Kevin Rofidal

"I'm not smart enough to know if that's true or not,” Erik Paulsen once said.

He’d been asked if he believed that humans were contributing to global warming. Though the suburban Minneapolis congressman confessed to a lack of scientific bona fides, he was also admitting his refusal to fire up a five-minute Google search. Or consult pretty much any scientist in the world.

His response wasn’t so much a matter of IQ as it was convenience. There was no well-heeled Canoe Aficionados Lobby capable of throwing major coin his way. But the pockets of oil, gas, and coal ran impressively deep. Paulsen was soon to wet his beak.

During his time in Congress, those industries have sent the Eden Prairie Republican $455,626. As repayment, he’s done his best to ensure the destruction of the planet doesn’t interfere with their mercantile interests.

Paulsen’s voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To keep the feds from enforcing limits on CO2 pollution. To ban greenhouse gases from Clean Air Act rules. To allow oil drilling on America’s Outer Continental Shelf.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that he and Mother Nature had gone through a bitter divorce, and he was using is job to even the score.

But views change. Especially when they’re no longer in the best interest of Erik Paulsen.

With his western suburban congressional seat now among the most threatened in the country, Paulsen is being forced to reverse course. He must establish an environmental record something closer to the sensibilities of Minnesotans. And soon.

Last week, the state’s premier climate-change denier joined the House Climate Solutions Caucus, which purports to “explore policy options” on global warming. Translation: They will occasionally meet. They may eventually propose some legislation. It will be swiftly crushed in House without a vote. This, after all, is a chamber where guys believe rising seas are caused by rocks falling in the water. The end.

But it will allow Paulsen to pretend he’s dropped his years-long feud with Mrs. Nature. Forgive voters for being a tad suspicious.

Over the course of his career, the congressman has voted with the League of Conservation Voters just 16 percent of the time.

Last year, the Defenders of Wildlife also gave him just 16 percent. He received an absolute zero rating from Clean Water Action. And a zero from EarthRights International.

But at least Paulsen has officially changed his tune on climate change. And he will soon be meeting. Probably. We think.