BEDFORD, N.H. — GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry told New Hampshire voters Wednesday that he does not believe in manmade global warming, calling it a scientific theory that has not been proven.
"I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we're seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing the climate to change," the Texas governor said on the first stop of a two-day trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
He said some want billions or trillions of taxpayer dollars spent to address the issue, but he added: "I don't think from my perspective that I want to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and from my perspective is more and more being put into question."
His comments came at a packed breakfast meeting with local business leaders in a region known for its strong environmental policies. And he made his global warming comment in response to a question by an audience member who cited evidence from the National Academy of Sciences.
But Perry's opinion runs counter to the view held by an overwhelming majority of scientists that pollution released from the burning of fossil fuels is heating up the planet. Perry's home state of Texas releases more heat-trapping pollution carbon dioxide — the chief greenhouse gas — than any other state in the country, according to government data.
Global warming has become an issue for contenders for the Republican nomination to run away from, since many conservatives question overwhelming evidence showing climate change is happening and the big government solutions to stem it.
Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney — who all at one point supported steps to curb global warming pollution — have since tempered their stances. But unlike Perry, both Romney and Huntsman acknowledge the scientific evidence.
On Wednesday, Perry promised to return regularly to a state that was not kind to a past Texas governor; Arizona Sen. John McCain upset GOP frontrunner and former Texas Gov. George W. Bush here in the 2000 presidential primary.
For many New Hampshire voters, Wednesday offered their first close look at the longtime Texas politician, who formally launched his White House bid over the weekend.
At the breakfast, Perry also questioned the loyalty of the Federal Reserve, just days after saying that if the Federal Reserve puts more money in the U.S. system, it could be considered a treasonous act that would be treated "pretty ugly" back home.
He noted the criticism he took for the comment, but did not back away from them. And he called on the institution to open its books.
"It would go a long way toward either finding out whether or not there is some activities that are improper of that they've been handling themselves quite well," he said. "But until they do that, I think there will continue to be questions about their activity and what their true goal is for the United States."
Perry also said he would not have signed the debt-ceiling compromise brokered by congressional leaders and the White House to avoid a national default.
"No I would not have signed it," he said. "We got to quit spending money."
Perry was meeting with more business leaders Wednesday before touring the seacoast region Thursday.
Dina Cappiello contributed to this report from Washington.