The Last Five—Who's Ready to Combat Climate Change? by Samantha Jakuboski, April 13 2016, 1 Comment

White House

With Election Day less than seven months away and only five candidates remaining, the race for the presidency is heating up. Attacks on rivals are mounting and competition in racking up delegates grows stronger every day. However, this election season is not the only thing that is heating up nowadays—cough, cough, the Earth—and candidates are taking note. Yes, climate change has been a point of discussion during past elections, but after last year’s 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris and the publication of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato si, it seems to me that it has become a more significant item on the international, and hence, the political agenda. The once soft rumble of the elephant in the Capitol has crescendoed into full-blown trumpeting, and is now very hard to ignore.

Through this (completely nonpartisan) post, I outline each candidate’s stance on climate change and the major plans proposed to combat it.

John Kasich

Governor of Ohio, (R)

Kasich believes climate change is real and that it is important to take care of the environment. But he also claims that he is still not convinced just how much of climate change can be attributed to man. Additionally, he said during the March 10 GOP debate that while the development of clean energy, such as solar and wind power, is important, it is also necessary to use fossil fuels, such as coal, in order to foster strong economic growth. As a result, his campaign platform does not include any substantial initiatives to fight climate change.

Ted Cruz

Senator from Texas, (R)

Unfortunately, Cruz still outright denies climate change, and therefore, has not proposed any initiatives to combat it if elected president.

Donald Trump

Businessman from New York, (R)

^ Ditto for Trump.

Bernie Sanders

Senator from Vermont, (D)

Sanders believes that climate change is “the single greatest threat facing our planet” and promises to create a 100% clean energy economy. Think sayonara to fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal, which release high amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and hello to renewable energy, which doesn't.

Investing in Clean Energy

To meet this ambitious clean energy goal, Sanders has set intermediate targets: a 40% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050. Sanders believes that investing in solar, wind, and theothermal energy, as well as passing legislation, will be important in accomplishing these targets. His proposed Low Income Solar Act will allocate government funds to low-income families transitioning to solar energy, so that renewable energy is available to people of all economic backgrounds. Additionally, the proposed Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act will provide benefits to the 10 million workers that Sanders believes will make the career switch into the clean energy sector.

Decreasing the Use of Fossil Fuels

In addition to investments in clean energy, Sanders believes that the use of fossil fuels has to be discouraged and eventually prohibited. To discourage the use of these fuels, Sanders aims to pass carbon taxes, which will charge people for their greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Sanders will prohibit the extraction of fossil fuels from federal land through his Keep it in The Ground Act.

Standing Up to the Fossil Fuel Industry

As a democratic socialist, it is no wonder Sanders takes issue with the profits made by the fossil fuel industry and believes that these earnings are made at the expense of average civilians. If elected as president, he will work to end fossil fuel subsidiaries and return billions of dollars to families around the country. He will also strive to ban Arctic oil drilling, offshore drilling, and fracking. Furthermore, in his hopes to limit the fossil fuel industry’s influences in politics, Sanders desires to ban fossil fuel lobbyists in Washington D.C.

Read more on Bernie Sanders’ climate change plans here.

Hilary Clinton

Former Secretary of State, (D)

Hilary Clinton, like Sanders, understands that climate change is real and that it poses a major threat to our country and world. To meet this challenge, Clinton proposed that the United States transition into clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% of its 2005 levels by 2025, and 80% by 2050. To accomplish these goals, she plans to invest in clean energy technology and work to decrease energy waste and consumption.

Make America the World’s Clean Energy Superpower

Clinton promises that, if elected, she will lead our country to generate enough renewable energy to power all American homes within 10 years. To achieve this, she plans to install 500 million solar panels throughout the country during her first term, as well as initiate the Clean Energy Challenge. Similar to Sander’s Low Income Solar Act, this $60 billion dollar plan will help communities, especially low-income ones, make such investments in clean energy. Unlike Sanders, however, Clinton has not made any proposal that would terminate fracking or the drilling of natural gas and oil.

Reduce Energy Waste and Consumption

In addition to the transition to cleaner energy sources, Clinton believes that reducing energy waste and consumption is also an important task in combating climate change. If elected, she promises to cut energy waste in homes and buildings by 33% in 10 years (10 years seems to be the go-to time period for project completion). To do this, she proposes investments in clean energy infrastructure and development, such as modernizing the pipeline system to prevent methane leaks.

Read more on Hilary Clinton’s climate change plans here.

Again, I stress that this post is not a political piece meant to sway you to support any particular candidate. Viewing each candidate’s position in its entirety and taking into consideration their stances on all major campaign issues is important to making a well informed vote.

Author Bio: Samantha is a sophomore at Barnard College, Columbia University. She hopes that through blogging, she can help change the way people view their actions in relation to the earth, encouraging them to lead more eco-friendly lives. Samantha also maintains the environmental science blog, Green Science, on Nature Journal’s Scitable blogging network.