Monday, Feb. 12, 2007 | 7:48 a.m.
WASHINGTON - When President Bush spoke for the first time in a State of the Union speech about the need to "confront the serious challenge of global climate change," environmentalists celebrated something of a turnaround for the Republican Party - which had put a senator who called global warming a "hoax" in charge of the Senate environmental committee.
But did the party indeed shift? A new poll out this month in the National Journal questioned members of Congress about their views on climate change and found climate change skeptics among the ranks of Republicans.
In surveying 113 members of the House and Senate, the nonpartisan publication asked: "Do you think it's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?"
Among Republicans, 84 percent said no. Among Democrats, 95 percent said yes.
The poll came just as the most definitive international report yet on global warming was released this month. It found that global temperatures are rising, snow is melting and it is "extremely unlikely" these changes can be explained by natural causes alone - the spike in greenhouse gases is pinpointed at the start of the industrial revolution.
The Southwest will be hit by rising temperatures harder and sooner than any other region in the continental U.S., experts said.
Bipartisanship is hard to come by on Capitol Hill, and the Nevada delegation reflects the congressional divide.
Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley both would have answered yes to the poll, had they been queried, their offices told the Sun.
Republican Rep. Jon Porter would have been a no. He "believes global warming is caused by a combination of natural and man-made factors," his spokesman said.
Sen. John Ensign did not answer the question definitively when asked by a reporter. He said that he believes global warming "deserves serious discussion and an open debate."
Rep. Dean Heller could not be reached for comment.
Nationwide, more Americans believe than disbelieve that global warming is caused by human behaviors like driving and burning coal and fossil fuels, according to a January Fox News poll.
Perhaps congressional opinions will shift again. The journal notes that when the question was posed in 2006, slightly more Democrats, 98 percent, agreed that global warming is man-made, while 77 percent of Republicans believed the evidence was not conclusive.