Candidate Positions on Climate Change
Hey candidates, you want my vote in November? Here it is then -- straight up -- what matters to me and my peeps: climate change and how our country will adapt and mitigate the current and future dangers we face. Equally important is how, and if, we can turn these negatives into opportunities for the United States and for our future.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the US, followed by June 2012 where over 3,200 temperature records were broken or tied. Over 63 percent of the continental US is experiencing drought conditions as of August 2012. This follows the 12 hottest months period ever with 9 of the 10 hottest years having occurred since 2000.
Don't get me wrong: I care deeply about the economy, jobs and the debt crisis. However, as I see it, if we don’t start factoring in the real external costs of our fossil fuel energy use we will never be able to properly get a handle on our rising debt, let alone balance our budget or create lasting employment.
We are allowing our atmosphere to be used like an open sewer with coal, oil and gas companies free to pollute and with no one but us paying the costs. We need to take responsibility for the impacts of human-created emissions to our health and health care system, our security needs, our feed stocks, crops and water supply, not to mention the direct damages and costs from an extreme weather event. Please talk about these concerns when you talk about jobs and the economy.
We aren’t the only ones looking to you for answers. An August 14th, 2012, a study by the Yale Project on Climate Change looks at the question: “Will candidates for political office benefit or be harmed by talking about and supporting action to reduce global warming?”
The findings should be of interest to you: “On balance, taking a pro-climate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them across all spectrum of voters, with this pattern similar at both the national and swing-state scales.”
With this in mind, but in the absence of a public debate yet on climate change, I have scoured your campaign websites and your recorded words -- and the energy plan Romney released last night -- to try to understand where you stand on climate change. Here is what I have found thus far:
Mitt Romney: Republican Party Candidate
Your energy plan: Climate change is not mentioned at all. No mention of solar and wind energy projects except in passing. Asserts that the U.S. can achieve energy independence by 2020 and create jobs by opening up more land and offshore areas to energy production, approving permits faster, and partnering with countries like Canada and Mexico to share their fossil fuel.
Your website: You have 24 issue tabs listed on the main page -- neither the environment nor climate change specifically are listed as a tab heading or subheading. Energy is one of the 24 main issue tabs but the information found on the energy page focuses primarily on fossil fuel production and extraction, with mention of nuclear power generation. Solar and wind energy projects are mentioned as failures.
Regarding regulation, you say you would amend the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview; even though the Supreme Court has ruled that the carbon emissions are harmful and the EPA has the right to regulate them. You would ensure that environmental laws properly account for cost in the regulatory process; and you would provide multi-year lead times before companies must come into compliance with new environmental regulations.
Quotes from the past four years on climate change/global warming:
“I believe that climate change is occurring. … I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor…I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control.” --No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, March 2010
"I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you're seeing." --June 2011
“My view with regards to energy policy is pretty straightforward. I want us to become energy secure and independent of the oil cartels. And that means let’s aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear power.” --October 2011
"My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." --October 2011
Not too reassuring to me. Yet, as governor you helped develop a climate change action plan for Massachusetts, closed old coal-fired power plants and encouraged the development of renewable energy. What happened? Your stance on climate change has done an about face.
Also, your choice of Paul Ryan for a running mate -- someone with a voting record that is decidedly anti-action on climate change, doesn’t do much to shore up your bona fides on the environment.
Barack Obama: Democratic Party Candidate
Your website: You have eights issue tabs on your website, one of which is “Energy and the Environment.” This page begins with the statement that you have made “protecting the environment" a priority. You have made a commitment to nearly doubling automobile mileage per gallon by 2025 from where it was at when you took office, cutting in half automobile greenhouse gas emissions. You have issued the first ever-national standards for mercury emissions (setting high pollution standards for clean air), and have taken clear serious steps to advance renewable energy generation, with emphasis on wind and solar power and job creation in these new areas.
Your “all of the above” energy program sounds ambitious to me, however. I personally have yet to see proof that “clean coal” is possible, and I believe that the requirements for ensuring that fracking can be done safely (if this is even possible) should be put in place, BEFORE we open up vast areas of our country to fracking by gas companies.
You have protected the EPA from serious attacks and supported and developed programs to create more jobs in a green economy.
Quotes from the past four years on climate change/global warming:
"This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet." --December, 2009
“Today, our world faces the major global environmental challenge of a changing climate. Our entire planet must address this problem because no nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change. The United States can be a leader in reducing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming and can propel these advances by investing in the clean energy technologies, markets, and practices that will empower us to win the future.” --April 2011
“There will always be people in this country who say we’ve got to choose between clean air and clean water and a growing economy, between doing right by our environment and putting people back to work. And I’m here to tell you that is a false choice. With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and protect our environment for ourselves and our children.” --March 2012
“I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” --April 2012
While the following quote is not in your own words, I found it extremely interesting.
“Mr. Obama has said that the most important policy he could address in his second term is climate change; one of the few issues that he thinks could fundamentally improve the world decades from now.” --The New Yorker, June 2012
I would like to hear this from you directly.
Green Party Candidate Jill Stein’s Green New Deal is the primary focus of her website. The premise behind the program is to create communities that are sustainable and healthy; moving away from a fossil fuel based economy to one that is focused on renewable energy, green jobs and a sustainable economy.
Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party nominee and former New Mexico Governor lists nine issue tabs on his site, with no mention of the environment or climate change.
Connecting the dots between jobs, security, the economy and climate change continues to be the white elephant in the room that is too often overtly and categorically ignored. The US Department of Defense has identified climate change as a key issue of national security. The warning bells being rung by scientists around the world, telling us that humans are causing our climate to change at a dangerously unprecedented pace and scale never before seen in the history of our planet, are deafeningly loud. The real world evidence that nature is showing us and the damage and destruction that is piling up in our neighborhoods, communities and hometowns from extreme weather events is overwhelming.
So, in absence of a debate and a discussion on the issues, I have the facts above to consider, but I would LOVE to hear directly from our candidates, in their own words on what they think about climate change and what they plan to do about it.
Make this a question in the debates this fall and depending on your answer, you may get my vote.
We don’t have four more years to wait.
Executive Director, ClimateMama
Editor's note: This post was updated by the BlogHer editorial staff to include links to and a summary of Romney's just-released energy plan. -- Julie