Climate Change & Candidates

Climate change has hardly been an issue in presidential debates since Al Gore and George W. Bush faced off in the 2000 elections.

The topic has come up a grand total of 16 minutes in the four series of presidential debates since.

But climate change is getting harder to ignore.

Heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts are getting harsher and more numerous. And any place not suffering from those four will be mobbed by newcomers as the rising sea level devastates major cities.

Gallop has found most Americans–including 67 percent of Westerners–feel something needs to be done.

It’s not a good time to have a President so set against cutting fossil fuel use that 17 U.S. automakers are complaining that he’s set fuel standards too low (New York Times, June 6).

On the other hand, most Democratic presidential candidates this year are acknowledging both the escalating environmental damage and the concerns of voters.

So Greenpeace set out to help voters decide just which of the candidates qualified to appear in televised debates is serious about climate change.

The organization sent a 28-question survey to candidates asking not only which policies they support, but how they plan to achieve them. Fifty points were allotted for plans to phase out fossil fuel production and another 50 for plans to create good jobs and better futures for the communities affected by the phasing out of fossil fuel production.

Only six of the 21 Democratic candidates completed the questionnaire, but Greenpeace didn’t let the poor response prevent a comprehensive evaluation. It gathered responses to surveys by the New York Times and the Washington Post, studied campaign platforms, and looked at previous actions and statements.

Then it ranked the candidates and wrote one paragraph summaries of their record, including links to questionnaires, platforms, statements, etc.

I don’t agree with Greenpeace on some methods and issues so their rankings are not mine.

But the breadth of information the organization is sharing is valuable.

I was surprised to find the buying and selling of rights to release carbon dioxide–which Oregon senators managed to stop in their state by hiding out in Idaho–wasn’t a top recommendation.

The goal for most candidates is cutting carbon emissions, not charging more for them. Simulations indicate climate crises will continue long after meaningful cuts are made. The sooner progress is made the better.

I studied the answers of Greenpeace’s number one ranked candidate–Washington Gov. Jay Inslee–to see just how he imagined the government programs could end pollution.

One obvious step Inslee mentioned is for government is to stop subsidizing production and marketing of fossil fuels. He also supports phasing out fossil fuel production on public lands and requiring producers to eliminate their on-site pollution.

Inslee would also set ambitious standards for decreasing emissions from electrical plants, vehicles, and buildings, and follow that up with subsidies and tax breaks aimed at encouraging research in new technologies.

These steps, Inslee acknowledges, must be followed up by training workers and inspectors, as well as by financing, both public and private, to help companies afford the required changes.

None of it sounds easy or inexpensive.  During this election, we’ll find if that 67 percent of Westerners are worried enough to support action.

I’d share the URL for the Greenpeace resource, but the URL has 45 random characters; I’d never get them right.

A search for “Climate 2020 scorecard” should find the googledoc. Scroll past the discussion of processes to find the summary and resources about each candidate.

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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