Only a few candidates agree that climate action is needed. Those that do disagree about when and how.
Though the global conversation around climate change heated up recently due to EPA’s August release of the final rule for the Clean Power Plan and the pope’s September visit to the United States, the US presidential candidates have largely been lukewarm on plans for both mitigation (regulating greenhouse gases) and adaptation (dealing with change’s effects).
There are three camps among the top candidates:
1.Several candidates—including Trump, Carson, and Cruz—reject the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change altogether. Not surprisingly, they have presented no plans for mitigation or adaptation, and have not presented plans in related subject areas like energy or environment (with the exception of energy deregulation Cruz introduced in the Senate).
2.Rubio, Bush, and Fiorina have all acknowledged climate change as a reality—though often with disclaimers about how the science is “convoluted.” Rubio and Bush have presented energy plans that include repealing the Clean Power Plan; deregulating oil, natural gas, and coal industries; approving the Keystone XL Pipeline; and allowing the market to decide renewable energy production—all to varying degrees of detail, but no plan about how these might affect low- and middle-income Americans.
3.Clinton and Sanders have acknowledged climate change and its human causes, and have stated that they would enforce the Clean Power Plan among other environmental considerations, such as rejecting Keystone. Sanders noted that climate change would be a “top three” issue, and has pursued building retrofit incentives as a legislator. Clinton has proposed more specific actions through a preliminary energy plan that includes massive expansion of distributed solar and other renewable sources. Both have not directly addressed the details of their plans or estimates about their financial effects for US households.
When they have mentioned the environment, energy, or climate change, then, candidates have hit the core issue of the economy—particularly about how any kind of policy or program action affects families’ finances. Framing climate action in terms of short-term energy costs alone, however, does not address current changes in the energy source mix in the United States, or the costs to families of increased energy consumption from temperature rise, health care costs from chronic health hazards, and increasing property insurance rates from extreme weather events, to name a few of the anticipated economic repercussions of climate change effects.
The upcoming UN Climate Conference in Paris will likely produce more questions—and possibly, explicit plans. We’ll be tracking the plans against these criteria.