Ben Carson says climate change not a priority if he gets presidency

The Republican candidate says he would treat the issue with "the significance it deserves"

Ben Carson says climate change not a priority if he gets presidency

Image: Alan Diaz / AP/Press Association Images

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson has said that despite the climate change deal in Paris, the issue would not be his priority as President.

Dr Carson, who has suffered a recent slip in the polls, said he would treat the issue with "the significance it deserves".

"It would not be the overarching driver of my policies. There's always been change going on," he told Sky News.

He added that although he may have attended the talks if he were President, he did not consider it the "premier issue in the world, and the cause of terrorism and everything". 

Dr Carson's soft spoken image has gone down well with potential voters but he has been ridiculed for some less-than-mainstream views.

He thinks the pyramids were built to store grain, that the Holocaust could have been prevented if Jews had guns and that Obamacare is worse than slavery.

He said he doesn't think he would have to rein himself in to become President, and that journalists have tried to paint him in a certain light.

"I understand that the news media are supposed to vet people - if there's scandals and things, you want to know about them, and in my case they can't find any scandals - therefore, let's see if we can somehow make this guy look crazy. I just think it's so dishonest.

Asked if the world would take America seriously with him as President, Dr Carson responded: "I believe they could, absolutely. I think the world is not used to having a person who speaks straightforward and honestly."

The retired neurosurgeon has been criticised for perceived shortcomings on foreign policy. With regard to tackling the so-called Islamic State, he seems to have developed a more rounded view of what needs to happen on the ground than he has shown in the past:

He said: "We don't have the enthusiasm of local forces even though they have an interest obviously in containing ISIS, not just containing it, but destroying ISIS, but they're sitting on the fence.

"I believe that what we need to do is look at things that work, for instance a few weeks ago Sinjar - which had been taken by ISIS and was a major conquest by them - was taken back. And how? The Kurds with our special ops people were able to shut off all the supply routes which weakened the city.

"And then as they went in, again with special ops, backed up by American air power, it was possible to take that city."

At home he said America's Muslim population needs to play a bigger role in tackling extremism.

"The imams, the clerics and the community itself. It's going to be, obviously, much more endearing to the rest of the population if the Muslim population is the one pointing out who the radicals are."

Aside from IS, Dr Carson thinks the biggest threat to the US is division.

He said: "I think there are a couple of really big threats: the divisiveness that is going on - our unity has been our strength in the past, so allowing the purveyors of division to make people think there are racial wars, and wars on women, income wars, religious wars, and age wars - this is not conducive to strength."

Asked if America's frequent mass shootings should be the first thing for a new President to address, Dr Carson said: "It already is sorted out in the sense that we have a Constitution with a second amendment that guarantees people the right to keep and bear arms.

He added: "Does that mean we shouldn't be looking at ways to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of people that are mentally unstable? Sure, we can look at that, but not in any way compromising the second amendment.

"The problem is not guns, the problem is people".

Dr Carson faces a big test in Tuesday night's fifth Republican debate, where he has struggled in the past.

This time round he needs to get some of Donald Trump's stardust if he really wants to win what he says is a marathon not a sprint.