By Allison DeLong
Nearly three-quarters of Americans now favor government action on climate change, but what about the candidates who are running for president? We believe that no matter who you are supporting, you should be informed on the issues.
Ben Carson: Carson is a self-proclaimed climate science questioner and recognizes that businesses, industries and academics need to work together to do things in a clean way that is good for the environment, but he does not think taking care of the environment should be made into a political issue. At a campaign stop in Durham, NH, Carson was asked about his stance on the changing climate, to which he responded, “the Earth’s temperature is always changing and if it didn’t, we would be in big trouble”. However, he says that contrary to popular claims, “there is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused.” During an interview last November, he stated “there’s always going to be either cooling or warming going on. 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.” This might lead one to think that he doesn’t want to take a firm stance on the issue and may just not be educated. Another possibility could be that he is trying to appeal to as many potential voters as possible by being both friendly toward the environment but not committing on his views about climate change. His website has energy as a listed issue and briefly states that environmental policy should be “refocused” so we may take advantage of natural resources, but still leave future generations with a better quality of life than our parents gave us, which sort of sounds like sustainability.
Ted Cruz: Cruz believes that factors such as temperature and precipitation have always changed and always will change, so the pseudoscientific theory of climate change can “never, ever, ever be disproven”. He thinks climate change is only a ploy of power greedy, big-government politicians who want “government power over the energy sector, the economy, and every aspect of our lives”, and want to double the electric bills of the American people, particularly hardworking single moms who are trying to make ends meet by working low wage jobs such as waitressing. Cruz has also repeated on several occasions that “according to the satellite data, there has been no significant global warming for the past eighteen years”, which is all contrary to what scientists, such as the ones at government scientific agencies NASA and NOAA say. His website does not have the environment or climate change as one of the listed issues.
John Kasich: Kasich seems to be on the fence about human-caused climate change. He pretty consistently says that he thinks climate change is real, but he doesn’t seem to know to what extent humans have played a part. He also said he thinks humans “are here to take care of the environment, but not to worship the environment”. He agrees with the practices of fracking and developing natural gas, but says that in Ohio, there are clear and tough rules on it to protect groundwater and to know what chemicals are being used. He also supports the recent legislation in Ohio that prohibits putting manure on frozen ground in order to control algae blooms in Lake Erie. He says we should “be sensitive to [climate change]”, but people shouldn’t lose jobs “based on some theory that’s not proven”. Kasich believes that the changing climate is nothing to “overreact to”. His website does not have the environment or climate change as one of the listed issues.
Marco Rubio: During the 7th Republican debate on January 28th, Rubio stated “I do not believe we have to destroy our economy in order to protect our environment. And especially what these programs are asking us to pass that will do nothing to help the environment, but will be devastating for our economy.” He does not support the idea of cap-and-trade and stated that there won’t be any cap-and-trade in the US if he is elected. When asked whether climate change has human causes he responded “I’m not a scientist. I’m not qualified to make that decision.” Energy is the closest issue on his website regarding the environment and climate change and the big claim made on this page is “On Day One in office, Marco will begin to undo the damage done by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, and begin implementing his comprehensive energy plan.” His plans include “immediately [approving] the Keystone XL Pipeline”, rewriting the Offshore Drilling Plan, and stopping current carbon mandates.
Donald Trump: Trump firmly believes that “[global warming] is a hoax and a money making industry.” While he denies the reality of climate change, he does recognize the importance of clean air and water. He doesn’t think we have to do it in a way that “[destroys] our businesses” though. In another instance, he says he “[doesn’t] believe in climate change” and says that “measures to fight it would ‘imperil the companies in our country.’” In an interview last September, Trump stated “I consider climate change to be not one of our big problems. I consider it to be not a big problem at all. I think it’s weather. I think it’s weather changes. It could be some man-made something. But, you know, you look at China, they’re doing nothing about it. Other countries are doing nothing about it. It’s a big planet.” This argument only shows Trumps lack of knowledge on the basic concept of the difference between the climate and weather. His website does not have the environment or climate change as one of the listed issues.
Hillary Clinton: Clinton recognizes the reality of global climate change and the detrimental/negative impact humans have had on the environment. On January 7th she retweeted a NOAA post that announced that 2015 was the second warmest year for the contiguous United States, along with her own statement: “climate change isn’t some abstract future threat-it threatens our families and economy right now. We need to act.” This sums up her stance on the issue; climate change is real, it’s happening now, and we need to take steps to address the problem. She claims that by way of wildfires, heat waves, and severe storms, “climate change is already taking a toll on the nation’s infrastructure—leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.” On her website, Clinton claims she will create jobs in the clean energy sector and has proposed that during her presidency, enough solar panels will be installed to power all homes in America, energy waste will be cut by a third, and oil consumption will be reduced by a third as well. She puts an emphasis on clean energy and efficiency as a means of meeting these reductions. She intends to stay true to the pledge that President Obama put forth during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference regardless of the climate change denying opinions of some of those in Congress who may not want to follow up on the pledge. Her website says that she wants to cut methane emissions, reform fossil fuel extraction on public lands, and create a $30 billion plan to “revitalize coal communities”.
Bernie Sanders: On November 13th, Sanders tweeted “We cannot let our grandchildren wonder why we did nothing about climate change. We must take bold action to transform our energy system now.” He says climate change is absolutely the greatest threat to national security and is “directly related to the growth of terrorism”. He agrees with the CIA’s claim that countries will be “struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops” and this will lead to “international conflict”. During a PBS interview he stated that “the world’s future is being endangered by climate change that the Republican party refuses to acknowledge.” Bernie believes climate change is an ethical issue and that we have a “moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren.” His website states that his plans include: “[revolutionizing] our electric and transportation infrastructure”, “[investing] in clean, sustainable energy”, and “[accelerating] a just transition away from fossil fuels”, among others.
As a student studying environmental science and sustainability, and as a member of the Millennial generation, the reality of how the Republican Party and its candidates approach global climate change and the environment is more than disheartening, it’s scary. Yes, scary. In order to mitigate climate change to the extent that we are still physically able, we need to act swiftly and comprehensively, which is not at all what these candidates are proposing we do. Given the physics of greenhouse gasses and the feedback loops within the global climate system, we aren’t able to reverse the changes that have already begun, BUT, we are able to prevent further extreme changes from happening. We can only do this if we change our policies, methods of business, and our lifestyles as soon as possible. The longer we wait to make changes, the more pollution we emit into the atmosphere and the more we degrade the natural environment, the greater the impact will be in the coming decades. This is why people, me included, need to understand the science behind climate change and come to realize that we need politicians who are working to create policies that sufficiently address the issue. The politicians need to take crucial steps to decrease our impact and mitigate the changes. But there is still hope and reason for optimism. Increasingly more people are recognizing the impact that humans have on the planet and the need to make changes in our culture, how we conduct business, and our government. We can still affect the future changes based on our future impacts, and that is where the hope lies; in the fact that we can still change the future of the planet if we make changes today.
Well there you have it: the 2016 Presidential Candidates stances on climate change and the environment and the perspective of it all from a college student in the Millennial generation. While this covered a lot, it didn’t cover everything, so if you would like to read more, I’ve provided some links below for further reading on the candidates’ stances on environmental issues. Remember the power your vote holds to make a difference. Vote!
Allison DeLong is a second year student at The Ohio State University. She is majoring in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability (EEDS) with a focus on Sustainable Business, and is minoring in City and Regional Planning. Allison is the Secretary of the Ohio State Turning Green Chapter Club and a member of the SUSTAINS Learning Community. In her free time, she enjoys photography, hiking and being out in nature, keeping up with global current events, and of course, Netflix. Throughout her lifetime, Allison hopes to affect change that can have a positive impact on the environment and the species’ that inhabit it.