The presidential candidates and climate change

After tonight’s caucuses in Iowa, Americans will have a slightly better idea of which candidate will win their party’s nomination (and therefore a slightly better idea of who may be president in 2009).  While the candidates are remarkably varied, one finds hope in the fact that most, if not all, see climate change as a great threat that needs immediate action, unlike the current administration. 

When compared to the republicans the democrats are still the environmental party.  The democrats in general speak about climate change with greater seriousness and urgency, while pledging to do more to prevent and mitigate global warming.  The top three democratic contenders–Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards–have each put forth detailed proposals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Many scientist’s see this as neccesary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.  While the details of their plans vary some, their desire to tackle climate change is clear.  The question now becomes: which candidate is most likely to make good on their promises?      

Unfortunately, no republican candidate has gone so far as the democrats, i.e. putting forth a plan with actual numbers attached.  However, republicans this time around are generally taking the issue more seriously than the current administration.  Both John McCain and Mike Huckabee support a mandatory cap-and-trade system to deal with global warming.  John McCain has been a long spoken out for the need to act on climate change.  Mike Huckabee views the issue as a moral one and wants to break our culture of fossil fuels. 

Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani have not shown the same level of commitment.  When talking about climate change Romney stresses the need for energy independence for national security purposes and is willing to use as much coal as possible to get there.  Rudolph Giuliani’s views climate change as a real and present danger, yet stresses (like the Bush administration) that the US can achieve nothing unless China and India act similarily, in other words he is unwilling to lead on the issue.  He also opposes (like the Bush administration) any cap on carbon, preferring the financial market to solve climate change.  Even though so far the financial market as it is has done little to curb carbon use.  Despite these facts both Romney and Giuliani expressed in a recent debate that they would enact programs akin to the Apollo mission in scale to create energy independence.   

In some ways the political powers that be have come a long way in the last few years.  George W. Bush has changed his mind very infrequently since entering office, but climate change was one of those rarities.  President Bush now states that climate change is real, that it is probably caused by human activity, and that action needs to be taken.  The problem is President Bush has refused to do anything of real consequence to tackle the issue.  America continues business as usual.    

Most Americans believe that we will have to wait out the Bush administration before anything meaningful is achieved regarding climate change.  The Bush administration seems to believe the same thing: they prefer foot dragging and obstruction to action.  Let us hope whoever takes the oath of office next January will not so cowardly leave the burden for another day. 

Author: jlhance

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