Foreign Policy Blogs

Presidential Candidates

Does climate change matter as an issue for the presidential campaigns?  See this from New Hampshire, giving a resounding yes to the question. "An overwhelming 96% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans favor taking action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." I referred to the Carbon Coalition in my post "Smorgasbord" below. They are zeroed in on the candidates and the issue of climate change. As of March 17, their Climate Change Resolution had been passed in 157 town meetings, turned down in 11 and been tabled in 5. New Hampshire certainly does not represent the whole nation, but it's a pretty important barometer, particularly for the presidential campaigns. (We have looked at world and national public opinion in two previous posts below, "The Ayes Have It" and "The Ayes Have It , Part Deux.")

Where do the candidates stand?  Let's do a very quick survey. Republicans first.

John McCain , His campaign website and Senate website both have information. In testimony before the Environment and Public Works Committee on Jan. 30, McCain called climate change "the most important environmental issue of our time." He, of course, is the co-author of the "Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act" which was introduced three and a half years ago.

Rudy Giuliani , His campaign website is silent on environmental issues. As someone who follows New York City politics and who was deeply involved in two mayoral races working on environmental issues, I will tell you that Giuliani, at best, did not pay much attention at all to the issue and there are any number of local open space and environmental advocates who will tell you his policies were regressive. A New Hampshire news article from March 21 reported that Giuliani said: "I do believe there's global warming," and that an "overwhelming number of scientists" have cited "significant human cause."

Mitt Romney , In a speech in February, Romney called for increasing domestic energy supply with nukes, biofuel, " and other sources of renewable energy." He also said reducing per capita energy consumption was important. He frames this as an energy independence concern, not tying it to climate change. The news article from N.H. referenced above says that a spokesperson said he:  "thinks it's likely human activity is contributing to the environment, but is not sure how much."

Sam Brownback , His campaign website refers to energy but not the environment or climate change. It cites his co-sponsorship of an energy bill in the Senate that "that relies on advanced technology and an expansion of renewable fuels." His Senate website has about the same approach.

Next the Democrats.

John Edwards , He's been pretty outspoken about climate change. His website is quite specific about how to address climate change and establish a "new energy economy" creating a million jobs. He says:  "Our generation must be the one that says, "we must halt global warming.' Our generation must be the one that says "yes' to renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil." Edwards has even called for April to be "Global Warming Action Month."

Hillary Clinton , She has consistently supported the Lieberman-McCain proposal, very much including a mandatory cap-and-trade system. In a far-ranging speech on energy policy from May of last year, she called for reforming energy taxes, "clean" coal including sequestration, renewables, and a good number of other things. Her Senate website says this, among other things, about climate change:  "The scientific consensus on climate change is increasingly clear: unless we act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the planet will continue to warm over the next century, with widespread and potentially devastating effects."

Barack Obama , His campaign website addresses energy and global climate change. About the latter, he says:  "We need to take steps to stop catastrophic, manmade climate change." He cosponsored the Lieberman-McCain bill and he gave a speech in April of 2006 on "Energy Independence and the Safety of Our Planet" in which he said, rather unflinchingly, " unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe."

Bill Richardson , As head of the Department of Energy under Clinton and as Governor of New Mexico, Richardson has more of a track record than other candidates. At DOE, he implemented energy efficiency standards and helped promote renewables. Two years ago, Richardson and Arnold Schwarzenegger jointly called for a Western states initiative to develop at least 30,000 megawatts of clean energy in the West by 2015, and to increase the efficiency of energy use by 20% by 2020. New Mexico has a Climate Change Action Plan and has entered into a "Western Regional Climate Action Initiative" along with California, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington. Richardson's campaign website includes a speech on energy he gave on March 14 in which some specifics include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050, getting auto efficiency to 50 mpg in ten years, and that climate change could mean "severe weather, flooding and drought and the alterations of agricultural production, rising sea levels, new disease patterns, widespread economic dislocations and destruction and a host of other problems." No punches pulled there.

Dennis Kucinich , "Climate Change: We Have Been Warned" is a speech from the House he gave last May. In it, he cites some grave statistics. On energy policy, his website says:  "There has to be a renewable energy portfolio of at least 20% by 2010. And that means introducing wind, solar, hydrogen, geothermal, biomass, and all of the options that must be available and need incentivizing. That also means withdrawing incentives for the production of nonrenewable energy."

Chris Dodd , The campaign website says that by:  "using energy more efficiently, and by using more clean and renewable sources of energy, Sen. Dodd believes that we should be able to lead the world in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global warming. In his view, it is high time that the United States re-join the commitment made by industrialized nations in Kyoto, Japan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Joe Biden , On climate change, the website says the candidate "supports a "cap and trade' approach to regulating emissions and investment in technologies that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions." On energy, he would make "a substantial national commitment by dramatically increasing investment in energy and climate change research and technology so that the United States becomes the world leader in developing and exporting alternative energy."

Mike Gravel ­, "Global Warming/Climate Change" is the paragraph title at his website. "We must act swiftly to reduce America's carbon footprint in the world by passing legislation that caps emissions," it says, among other things.

Okay, that's the overview. You will hear more and more about the issues of climate change and energy policy from the candidates as the campaign progresses, not only in New Hampshire but everywhere. This may be the first time, in fact, that energy and the environment become top-tier campaign concerns.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change