Al Gore's Nobel win may have some Republicans crying politics, but an article in yesterday's New York Times suggests that the announcement from Stockholm last Friday has forced GOP presidential candidates to tackle the issue of global warming head on. Sort of. What the Times says is that "the issue had been gradually bubbling up among leading Republicans as top corporations, including some in petroleum, have been pushing to address it" and that now "the issue inserted itself into the presidential campaign."

The Entrepreneurial Agenda is skeptical that Gore's Peace Prize has sparked actual debate on the GOP campaign trail -- we suspect this is merely wishful thinking on the Times' part, an effort to shape the agenda (with a small "a"). Or it's a pretext for spotlighting diverging views on global warming. But that's a useful exercise in itself, since it is our impression that one would have to go to a lot of speeches and transcribe a lot of debates to find much discussion about global warming at all, let alone parse the differences.

All of the GOP hopefuls profiled (the article ignored Ron Paul, Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo) have now acknowledged that global warming is a threat, and they all are pushing hard on energy independence through technology and "alternative" energy (could be ethanol; could be nuclear). Beyond that, the Times has identified four distinct trends among the contenders:

*For the two front-running ex-moderates, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, this is another instance where it's difficult to find a distinction: both are racing as far from the center as fast as their position papers can carry them. They seldom mention the warming planet at all; instead, they cast the issue in energy security terms and have little to say about actually limiting harmful emissions.

*Next are the religious conservatives, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who talk passionately about curbing emissions, but stop short of proposing much beyond cultivating new energy sources. Brownback opposes a cap-and-trade system for fear it would harm the economy.

*Then there's Senator John McCain, an early (among Republicans) believer: he supports a cap-and-trade policy.

*Finally, there's the view of former Sen. Fred Thompson, who "does not have a stated position." The Times notes that he's a very recent convert to the cause: he mocked global warming as late as April but now says "climate change is real."

Was it something Al Gore said? Probably not, but maybe the debate within the Republican candidates is evolving, after all.