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The 2020 presidential candidates take a stand on climate change

By Sam Gurdus
Staff Editor

As the 2020 election grows closer, more attention is being paid to the presidential candidates’ plans surrounding the environment and, more specifically, climate change. Climate change is quickly becoming one of the most important issues of this election.

According to the Washington Post, as of Sept. 10, fourteen of the 20 Democratic candidates support the Green New Deal resolution, while all 20 believe the United States should rejoin the Paris Agreement. That near consensus shows how significant this issue is to the presidential candidates and their voters. The Green New Deal and the Paris Agreement are both initiatives targeting climate change. The Green New Deal is a proposed piece of legislation for the United States, while the Paris Agreement is an agreement reached in 2015 between 195 countries.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks about Green New Deal with Sen. Ed Markey on Feb. 7, 2019. PHOTO CREDIT: Senate Democrats

What is climate change?

Climate change is a change in the Earth’s climate and weather from its historical patterns. Global warming is a major factor in climate change. Global warming can be traced back to the mid-20th century, when a British engineer first proposed the idea that the Industrial Revolution was a major factor in the warming of the United States and North Atlantic region. 

Here is a breakdown of where the top five Democratic candidates stand on specific climate-change-related issues:

Setting a price on carbon
An oil jack stands against cloudy sky in May 2016. PHOTO CREDIT: skeeze / Pixabay

According to the Washington Post, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren both support setting a price on carbon.

Bernie Sanders believes that if a price on carbon was implemented, it must be part of a larger strategy that transitions the economy away from fossil fuels and prevents negative impacts on low-income families and communities of color. 

If elected, Kamala Harris would set a price on carbon. Her climate plan states: “A price on pollution is not a silver bullet, but by placing a progressively increasing fee as far upstream as possible, we can drive down pollution while raising government revenues that can be used to address the harms of greenhouse gas emissions.” It continues, “However, history shows us that reliance on market mechanisms alone can often leave communities behind. That’s why Kamala will involve frontline communities in the fee development process, and would ensure that the fee revenues are invested back into those communities.”

Pete Buttigieg supports a tax on carbon. In a CNN climate town hall, he told the audience, “There is a harm being done, and in the same way that we have taxed cigarettes, we’re going to have to tax carbon.” Buttigieg also believes that the revenue collected should be distributed back to the people “on a progressive basis, so that low- and middle-income Americans are made more than whole.”

Ending fracking
As a result of fracking, a dense pattern of roads, clearings and pipelines break up the grasslands in Wyoming in May 2006. PHOTO CREDIT: EcoFlight

While Biden said he would not support a ban on fracking, he does support ending all oil or gas drilling on federal lands.

Warren told the Washington Post that she supports a ban on fracking.

Sanders has taken a strong stance against fracking. According to a campaign spokesman, “Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe. It has resulted in more earthquakes. It’s highly explosive. And, to top it off, methane from natural gas is contributing to climate change. Safe fracking is, like clean coal, pure fiction. … No amount of regulation can make it safe.”

At a CNN town hall, Harris said, “There’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking. And starting with what we can do on day one around public lands, right? … The residual impact of fracking is enormous in terms of the impact on the health and safety of communities.”

In response to the Washington Post, Buttigieg wrote, “I favor a ban on new fracking and a rapid end to existing fracking so that we can build a 100 percent clean energy society as soon as possible.”

Putting an end to fossil fuel exports
An oil tanker in the Houston ship channel returns for more cargo. PHOTO CREDIT: Roger W. / Flickr

In response to a question regarding the banning of fossil fuel exports, Biden said, “I think we should, in fact, depending on what it is they’re exporting for what they’re replacing.”

Warren has stated, “I support re-imposing limits on crude oil exports and I opposed lifting the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil.”

According to a campaign spokesman, if elected, Sanders would ban all fossil fuel exports.

Harriscampaign website states, “We must begin intentionally and deliberately transitioning away from fossil fuels, shifting from being an exporter of fossil fuels to an exporter of clean energy technology.”

While Buttigieg has created a climate plan including a pathway to a net zero emissions economy, he has not made it clear if he would support a ban on fossil fuel exports.

Stopping fossil fuel subsidies
Crude oil fills pipelines at Bryan Mound in Aug. 2014. PHOTO CREDIT: U.S. Department of Energy

According to his climate plan, Biden would “demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies.” He believes that “there is simply no excuse for subsidizing fossil fuel, either in the United States or around the world.”

Warren believes in ending fossil fuel subsidies. Her climate change plan states, “For too long, Big Oil has been allowed to suck down billions of dollars in subsidies at the expense of the environment and working families. Elizabeth supports eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and using that money to invest in clean and renewable energy and infrastructure.“

Sanders supports ending fossil fuel subsidies. In a tweet he posted this past May, he stated, “It’s time to end all subsidies for oil and gas companies. These companies lied to the American people about the very existence of climate change. They committed one of the greatest frauds in our history.” He continued, “When we are in White House we’ll rapidly transition to renewable energy.”

According to her climate plan, if elected, Harris “will end federal subsidies for fossil fuels and hold Big Oil accountable for its role in the climate crisis.”

Buttigieg’s climate plan calls for ending subsidies for fossil fuels.

An honorable mention

Jay Inslee made his signature issue the well-being of the environment. While he has officially dropped out of the presidential race, his campaign helped to bring a significant amount of attention to this issue. His climate plan included ending fossil fuel subsidies, making polluters pay through a climate pollution fee, putting an end to fracking, and stopping fossil fuel exports. In an article posted to the New York Times, Inslee stated, “The science is clear: We must take major action to reduce carbon pollution in the next decade, or our communities and our children’s lives will suffer dramatic and irreparable harm.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, here is where the two major Republican candidates stand on climate change:

President Donald Trump has not released any plans to combat climate change. In fact, his administration has done much of the opposite. In June of 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Agreement. Additionally, President Trump’s campaign website notes a number of his administration’s other accomplishments. For example, it states he “signed an Executive Order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling and open more leases to develop offshore drilling.” The website also says, “President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).”

In contrast, William Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, has taken a more environmentalist position on climate change. In a speech in February, Weld said, “there’s a pressing need to act on climate change.” He also added, “The United States must rejoin the Paris climate accords and adopt targets consistent with those of other industrialized nations.” Weld’s campaign website can be found here.

Featured image above: Smoke stacks release white smoke into a blue sky. PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay

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