by Judith Curry
So . . . what do the U.S. presidential candidates have to say about climate change?
Until very recently, pretty much nothing. Here are some recent developments.
Sciencedebate.org asked both Obama and Romney to respond to 12 questions, including climate change. Here is what they had to say:
2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.
I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.
Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.
Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.
So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.
For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically-attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.
Dan Moutal of Planet 3.0 does not like Romney’s response, and has a point by point rebuttal.
“And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”
I predict that not one single vote in the presidential election will be determined by the candidates’ positions on climate change. But
A summary of the respective party platforms is provided by The Observatory.
The presidential candidates are still treating it like a back-burner issue, but the Republican and Democratic national conventions incited a short round of climate-change coverage as reporters dug into the newly approved party platforms.
Republicans: That section devoted to climate change? Gone. Instead, the platform flatly opposes ”any and all cap and trade legislation” to curtail greenhouse gases. It demands that Congress “take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.” It criticizes the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy for ”elevat[ing] ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.”
Grist and a number of other progressive, environmental bloggers also blasted Republican nominee Mitt Romney for treating climate change as a punchline during a convention speech in which he mocked what he termed the president’s desire to slow sea-level rise and “heal the planet.”
Treehugger has a description of the Democratic Party platform:
• We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clean energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we will continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers.
• Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically – through regulation and market solutions – is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice.
Romney: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.”
Obama: And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.
Obama’s track record
The NY Daily News does not speak kindly of Obama’s ‘empty climate change promises:’
Remember those long-ago days when Obama wanted a greenhouse “cap and trade” program? Remember when it died in the Democratic-controlled Senate without his support? Can you name what year it was the last time Obama attended a UN climate change conference? (Hint: it came before a famous “shellacking” in the polls).
You don’t have to take my word for it that Obama has failed to match his rhetoric to his deeds. Former Vice President Al Gore himself famously called out Obama for failing to take action on the climate, saying ““He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.”
After the failed Copenhagen climate change conference, Friends of the Earth said, “Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world.” And the World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let the world down by failing to push Congress for climate change legislation.”
So, I can understand a little liberal angst over Romney’s gentle mockery. Hitting the President for suggesting he could slow the rise of the world’s oceans hits a sore spot. The President’s climate change record is weak at best. And he’s still environmentalists’ best game in town. That has to be endlessly frustrating.
Rep. Todd Akin
While obviously not a presidential candidate, Rep. Todd Akin has been in the news owing to his bizarre comment about rape. Vaughan Pratt sent me a link to Akin’s website where he describes his stance on climate change and energy policy. Take a look. Surprised?
JC comments: While both party platforms are rather extreme on the topic of climate change, the comments made by each of the Presidential candidates are thoughtful and not at all unreasonable. It seems that Republicans are not ‘denying’ climate change and that humans are contributing. If this is truly the case, then the political debate can be about policies, values, and economics. And hopefully we can stop this silly anti-science, denier rhetoric to describe any disagreement with the consensus, which is way past its ‘use by’ date.
On election date in Nov, however, I suspect that not a single vote will be cast that is based primarily on either candidate’s stance on climate change.