Former vice president Al Gore speaking at the Chicago University Institute of Politics voiced a skeptical and at times sarcastic response to Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stances on climate change. (Video courtesy University of Chicago's Institute of Politics)


Former vice president Al Gore said Monday night that GOP presidential hopefuls have "been cowed into abandoning" any talk of addressing climate change.

Gore's comments, during a discussion with Democratic strategist David Axelrod at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, came a day after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) questioned scientists' predictions that human activities are the main driver of climate impacts such as sea level rise and more intense storms.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," Rubio said on ABC's "This Week."

During Monday's discussion Axelrod played a video of an interview he had recently conducted with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another possible 2016 contender. During that exchange at the institute, Paul said there was little evidence to suggest recent weather changes were anything but a normal part of the earth's natural cycle.

"The earth's 4.5 billion years old, and you’re going to say that we had four hurricanes and so it proves a theory?" Paul said.

"There is an enforced orthodoxy in the Republican Party," Gore said. "I don’t think it’s particularly complicated why they have all been cowed into abandoning that position. They will face primary opponent, financed by the Koch brothers and others who are part of their group, if they even breathe the slightest breath of sympathy for the truth about climate science."

Gore noted that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) supported federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change when he was his party's presidential nominee in 2008, and the GOP's nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney, had backed climate regulation when he served as Massachusetts governor between 2003 and 2007.

But Rubio spokesman Alex Conant noted that the one political player spending money in Florida on the issue of climate change right now is billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who is running ads attacking his boss.

"That’s a ridiculous assertion by the Vice President," Conant wrote in an e-mail. "The only big money we’ve seen on this issue is Tom Steyer’s ads currently running in Florida attacking Senator Rubio for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline."