It won’t surprise you to know that there are stark differences between the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates with regard to their positions on climate change. Democrats accept the science on climate change and, for the most part, hold strong positions on what to do to combat it. Republicans have divergent views on the science, and what, if anything, government should do about it.
Since we are concerned on this site about policy related to oil and gas drilling, it’s worth shining a light on the positions of the candidates as an indication of the willingness of each to regulate drilling.
Hillary Clinton: She clearly understands climate change. Last December she told the League of Conservation Voters, “The science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say. Sea levels are rising; ice caps are melting; storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc. … If we act decisively now we can still head off the most catastrophic consequences.”
That said, it’s unlikely she will deviate much from the policies of the Obama Administration. She has said she supports the Clean Power Plan: “The unprecedented action that President Obama has taken must be protected at all cost.”
On the other hand, she has also been aggressive in her support for fracking overseas. According to a Mother Jones article, “Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe — part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel.” She also “helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves.”
Her environmental bona fides are shaky in other areas. As a Senator she supported offshore oil drilling, the Clinton Foundation takes in loads of oil money, and she avoids saying anything about the Keystone XL.
Like Obama, Clinton will likely be a mixed bag on climate change if elected.
Bernie Sanders: Mother Jones reports that he has one of the strongest climate change records in the Senate. According to rankings released by Climate Hawks Vote, a new super PAC, Sanders was the No. 1 climate leader in the Senate for the 113th Congress that ended in January.
“Sanders is very much among the top leaders,” says R.L. Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote. “He has a record of really strong advocacy for solar in particular.”
Among bills that Sanders has introduced are the Climate Protection Act, which would tax carbon and methane emissions and rebate three-fifths of the revenue to citizens, then invest the remainder in energy efficiency, clean energy, and climate resiliency; and the Residential Energy Savings Act to fund financing programs that would help residents retrofit their homes for energy efficiency.
Martin O’Malley: The former governor of Maryland, a state that has been among the most aggressive in limiting fracking, O’Malley in June published a remarkable position paper on climate change that clearly establishes him as the most aggressive candidate. In the paper he says that “Clean energy represents the biggest business and job creation opportunity we’ve seen in a hundred years. Reliance on local, renewable energy sources also means a more secure nation and a more stable world.
“Given the grave threat that climate change poses to human life on our planet, we have not only a business imperative but a moral obligation to future generations to act immediately and aggressively.”
In the paper he calls for absolute opposition to fracking, to offshore and Arctic drilling, and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Jim Webb: Webb deviates from typical Democratic positions on energy and warming. As Grist, a liberal environmental web site puts it, “Jim Webb sucks on climate change.”
He does not believe that reducing emissions should be a priority: “We need to be able to address a national energy strategy and then try to work on environmental efficiencies as part of that plan. We can’t just start with things like emission standards at a time when we’re at a crisis with the entire national energy policy.”
His view of an energy future: “I believe the way to go with coal is to get the technology to address the issues, rather than to put coal out of business. And I’m a strong believer, from the time that I was 18 years old, in the advantages of nuclear power.”
The Republicans fall into several camps. Only two candidates have clearly stated that they believe that humans are responsible for climate change, four have stated categorically that they don’t believe in climate change, and the rest are casting about, trying to find a position that will be acceptable to primary voters without moving them too far out of the mainstream to survive in November.
We’ll group them by their views.
Climate science believers
Lindsey Graham: Graham has been clear that he is a believer in climate change. In an interview last month he said, “If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way. I do believe that climate change is real.”
This week he told Late Night host Seth Meyers, “I’m not a scientist, but here’s the problem I’ve got with some people in my party: when you ask the scientists what’s going on, why don’t you believe them? If I went to 10 doctors and nine said, ‘Hey, you’re gonna die,’ and one says ‘You’re fine,’ why would I believe the one guy?”
However, his plan for what to do about it is short on specifics: “We must adopt economically sound principles for reducing negative impacts on the environment and becoming better stewards of God’s creation. This can be achieved through greater efficiency, less waste, better use of technology, and more cost-effective measures. All of these efforts will contribute both to a cleaner environment and greater energy resources.”
Chris Christie: In May, Chris Christie told MSNBC, “I think global warming is real. I don’t think that’s deniable, and I do think human activity contributes to it.”
“The question,” says Christie, “is what we do to deal with it.” The US “can’t be acting unilaterally…when folks in China are doing things to the environment that would never be done in our country.”
From his record in New Jersey it’s not clear what if anything he would do about it. Christie closed his state’s Office of Climate Change and Energy and withdrew New Jersey from RGGI, a regional carbon reduction program
The flat out deniers
Ben Carson: “There’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on,” he said in Iowa. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment.” When asked about the scientific consensus on global warming, he said, “You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling.”
With regard to the Keystone Pipeline, he has said, “It’s perfectly safe, so I can’t really see a good reason not to do it.”
Mike Huckabee: On Meet the Press in June, Huckabee said, “I know that when I was in college I was being taught that if we didn’t act very quickly, that we were going to be entering a global freezing. Go back and look at the covers of Time and Newsweek from the early ’70s. And we were told that if we didn’t do something by 1980, we’d be popsicles. Now we’re told that we’re all burning up. Science is not as settled on that as it is on some things.”
This is Huckabee’s third run for the Oval Office, so it’s worth noting that in 2007, his position was “climate change is here, it’s real.”
Ted Cruz: Last March, Cruz told The Texas Tribune, “On the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate. What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic. Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.
“I’m a big believer that we should follow the science, and follow the evidence. If you look at global warming alarmists, they don’t like to look at the actual facts and the data. The satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years. Now that’s a real problem for the global warming alarmists. Because all those computer models on which this whole issue is based predicted significant warming, and yet the satellite data show it ain’t happening.”
Marco Rubio: As reported by Politifact, in a 2014 interview with ABC News, Rubio stated, “‘Our climate is always evolving and natural disasters have always existed.’ He doesn’t believe that ‘human activity’ is causing the extreme changes to climate change ‘the way these scientists are portraying it.’ He does not support legislation to ameliorate what has been laid out as industrial causes, seeing them as ‘destroy[ing]” the economy.”
Like Huckabee, his position has “evolved” over time. In 2007 he almost echoed Martin O’Malley when he said, “Global warming, dependence on foreign sources of fuel, and capitalism have come together to create opportunities for us that were unimaginable just a few short years ago,” he said. “Today, Florida has the opportunity to pursue bold energy policies, not just because they’re good for our environment, but because people can actually make money doing it. This nation and ultimately the world is headed toward emission caps and energy diversification.”
Rick Perry: Talking to the Christian Science Monitor in June about oil and gas exploration and the Keystone XL, Perry said, “I don’t believe that we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination to stop that kind of economic opportunity.”
He even rejected the concept of carbon emissions contributing to warming, opining, “Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and I believe a disservice to the world.”
This is the same guy who couldn’t remember he wanted to cut the Department of Energy in his last go-round in 2012.
Sitting somewhere in the middle, but it’s hard to tell exactly where
Jeb Bush: Bush seems to be following the Mitt Romney strategy of saying whatever you need to say to get the nomination, then coming up with a viable strategy for the general election:
- In April, he said the US needs“to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.”
- In May, he backtracked, commenting,
“For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you.”
- In June, Bush, a Catholic, disagreed with Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, saying “”I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”
“I live in Miami, a place where this will have an impact over the long haul. And I think we need to develop a consensus about how to approach this without hollowing out our industrial core, without taking jobs away from people, without creating more hardship for the middle class of this country,” he said. “I believe there are technological solutions for just about everything, and I’m sure there’s one for this as well.”
Expect that if he gets the nomination, he’ll find a middle position of paying lip service to climate change without a plan to do anything about it.
Rick Santorum: Last January, Santorum appeared on MSNBC’s State of the Union, and said, “Is the climate warming? Clearly over the past, you know, 15 or 20 years the question is yes. The question is, is man having a significant impact on that, number one. And number two, and this is even more important than the first, is there anything we can do about it? And the answer is,…clearly, no. Even folks who accept all of the science by the alarmists on the other side, recognize that everything that’s being considered by the United States will have almost – well, not almost, will have zero impact on it given what’s going on in the rest of the world.”
In June, he weighed in on the Pope’s enclyclical: “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality. When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is not as forceful and credible.”
Bobby Jindal: Jindal believes that “human activity is having an impact on the climate,” but he told the Heritage Foundation last fall that global warming is being used by the Obama Administration as a “Trojan horse…to come in and make changes to our economy that they would otherwise want to make….It’s an excuse for the government to come in and try to tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of lifestyles we can enjoy. It’s an excuse for some who never liked free-market economies, who never liked rapid economic growth.”
Jindal’s energy plan, Organizing Around Abundance: Making America an Energy Superpower , makes the case for rolling back energy regulations and environmental protections, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing the renewable fuel standard, allowing oil and gas exports and opening federal land to drilling.
Not really a recipe for warming reduction.
Carly Fiorina: Fiorina’s position is close to Christie’s, but she stops short of saying unequivocally that global warming is caused by humans. She agrees with Christie in saying that we should not act unilaterally when other countries are not cutting back on carbon emissions. In an October, 2014 op ed in the Washington Post she said,
“When discussing climate, scientists may agree that some policy change is warranted, but they also agree that action by a single state or nation will make little difference. China and India are the biggest and third-biggest producers, respectively, of carbon dioxide emissions, and their leaders were absent from the recent U.N. Climate Summit. At a time when American families are still recovering from joblessness and the recession, should the United States commit to an energy policy that puts U.S. jobs, and the economy, at risk?”
Rand Paul: Despite being one of only 15 Republican Senators to vote for a resolution last January that said global warming is real and humans contribute to it, two months later he voted against an amendment saying that climate change is real and caused by human activity and that Congress must cut carbon pollution.
In terms of policy, Paul has consistently been against action to reduce our carbon footprint.
Last year he told David Axelrod that the earth goes through periods of time when the climate changes, but he’s “not sure anybody exactly knows why. He said the science behind climate change is “not conclusive,” and that people who tie extreme weather to climate change are ignorant.
In a class by himself
Donald Trump: Appearing on Hannity in June, Trump said, well, something. “I’m not a believer in manmade — look, this planet is so massive. And when I hear Obama saying that climate change is the number one problem it is just madness. And by the way it started this global cooling, I mean we went through global warming…they don’t even know. Now they just call it — no, they call it extreme weather.”
We’ll let The Donald have the last word. It’s going to be a long road to November 2016.