As staff briefed him on possible measures and environmentalists pressed him to act, Romney frequently repeated a central thought, people at those meetings said: That climate change is occurring, that the United States has the resources to handle its vast impact but that low-lying poor countries like Bangladesh would suffer greatly.

“It was like a mantra with him,” said a person who attended those meetings who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic. “His Cabinet members would look at him like, ‘What?’ He was the radical in the room.”…

Indeed, one of Romney’s top environmental staffers, Gina McCarthy, now runs the air pollution unit of the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama. John Holdren, a scientist Romney turned to on at least one occasion to discuss climate change, is the White House senior advisor on science and technology issues…

The gulf between his past actions and current rhetoric has many, including some Republicans, wondering which positions he would take if he won in November. Would Romney stick to an energy plan heavily tilted to boosting oil and gas development and reducing regulation? Or would he tack back to the moderate positions he once embraced as Massachusetts governor?