By Chris Adams

For six years, Bob Inglis was a Republican U.S. representative from South Carolina who – to put it bluntly – thought “climate change was nonsense.”

Thing is, he couldn’t begin to tell you why.

“I didn’t know anything about it, except that Al Gore was for it,” Inglis said. “That ended the inquiry. Being from a very red district, that’s all I needed to know.”

But during a second go-around in Congress (congressional history), he changed his tune. Part of that was due to a comment by his son, who said he should take it seriously; part of it was a scientific fact-finding trip to Antarctica in 2006.

He believes that while scientists don’t have everything figured out on climate change, they are giving their best estimates using the best tools available to them. And one thing that bothers him is the default assessment by many Republicans now that, “I’m not a scientist.”

If not, he said, people should listen to people who are scientists.

“This climate rejection is a matter of the heart, not the head,” he said in a session with National Press Foundation fellows.

He is now head of a group called republicEn, which is dedicated to moving public opinion – particularly Republican opinion – on climate change. “We’re out to convince the country,” he said.

He said it will take 25 House Republicans and 15 Senate Republicans – in addition to Democrats -- to pass a carbon tax, which would cause American industry to moderate their emissions of greenhouse gasses. The group’s goal is to do so by 2022.

“This doesn’t have to be every Republican,” he said. “But in order for it to be a durable solution it needs some of them. History shows that durable congressional action needs to have bipartisan support.”