By Jason McLure
LEBANON, N.H. (Reuters) - Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in danger of losing his 2012 Republican primary front-runner status, Wednesday tweaked his position on global climate change, saying he does not know if humans are the primary cause.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, also said he would not place restrictions on carbon emissions if elected and did not favor spending heavily on climate solutions.
He was asked about global warming at a town hall meeting in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and said he believed the world is getting hotter and humans contribute in some way to the change.
"Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that but I think that it is," he said. "I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans.
"What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to."
In June, a day after launching his second bid for the White House, Romney caused a stir by saying he thought humans had contributed to climate change and that emissions of pollutants should be reduced.
A study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 found that "climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks." That view is backed by most climate scientists. But surveys have shown that many Republicans do not agree -- especially those who are more likely to vote in the primary elections.
Two polls on Wednesday showed Romney, a narrow front-runner in the Republican field for much of the year, has lost the lead in the Republican nominating contest, trailing Rick Perry by double digits. The Texas governor recently jumped into the race.
Campaigning in New Hampshire last week, Perry, who is typically more of a social conservative, called climate change a "theory that still has not been proven" and labeled the science behind it "politicized."
Romney also said on Wednesday that he would make weaning the United States from imported energy from the Middle East a priority over reducing carbon emissions.
Still, using additional domestic nuclear, natural gas, and other resources could have a side benefit of cutting carbon emissions, Romney said. "My view is pursue a strategy which gets us into energy independence which has as a byproduct it gets us into less CO2 emitting."
He criticized a bill backed by President Barack Obama that would have capped carbon emissions and allowed polluters to buy and sell rights to emit carbon.
"I do not believe in cap and trade and I do not believe in putting a carbon cap" on polluting industries, Romney said.
(Reporting by Jason McLure; editing by Ros Krasny and Bill Trott)
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.