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3p Weekend: Is Your Candidate a Climate Denier?


With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

The presidential primaries are heating up, and 25 states and territories have yet to cast their ballots. The Republican race has dwindled down from a staggering 17 candidates to three remaining holdouts: Businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. On the Democratic side, some are already declaring victory for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but her opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has made clear he's not going down without a fight.

It likely seems as if every pol and pundit has an opinion on who you should vote for and why. But the great thing about democracy is that there's only one voice that matters when you head to the ballot box: yours. And as such, it's important for each of us to be informed about the candidates' stances on the issues that matter to us.

While we don't advocate single-issue voting, we know climate issues are of great interest to our readers, so we thought a quick break-down was in order. To help you make an informed decision when your state heads to the polls, spend a few minutes learning each of the candidates' stances on climate change -- as explained on their campaign websites and in the media.

Hillary Clinton (D)

On her campaign page: "I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change," former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year during COP21, as quoted on her campaign page.

Clinton devotes an entire page on her campaign website to climate and energy. On it, she pledges to make the following happen within 10 years of taking office:

  • Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of her first term.

  • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

  • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships and trucks.
In the media:

2015: Hillary Clinton was quick to applaud the Paris climate agreement after its passage in December, saying: "I applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry and our negotiating team for helping deliver a new, ambitious international climate agreement in Paris ... We cannot afford to be slowed by the climate skeptics or deterred by the defeatists who doubt America's ability to meet this challenge."

January 2016: At a campaign speech in Nevada in January, Clinton said: "We've got to combat climate change, because it is real." She went on to give a suggestion to fellow candidates who "don't know" whether climate change is real because they're "not scientists," saying: "Go talk to a scientist and actually listen."

March 2016: This month, Clinton fired back at opponent Bernie Sanders' claims that she accepts too many campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies to be serious about climate action. "I do not — I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies," she told a Greenpeace activist on Thursday, distinguishing between contributions from energy companies themselves and their employees. "I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I'm sick of it."

Bernie Sanders (D)

On his campaign page: "The scientists are virtually unanimous that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote on his campaign page. "And, they tell us, if we do not act boldly the situation will only become much worse in years to come in terms of drought, floods, extreme storms and acidification of the oceans ... While fossil fuel companies are raking in record profits, climate change ravages our planet and our people – all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into ignoring science."

The Independent senator also devotes an entire page on his campaign website to climate issues, along with a custom hashtag #PeopleBeforePolluters. On it, Sanders lays out five policy initiatives aimed at helping us curb climate change, each with another page explaining in more detail:

  • Reclaim our democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby (read more here)

  • Accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels (read more here)

  • Invest in clean, sustainable energy (read more here)

  • Revolutionize our electric and transportation infrastructure (read more here)

  • Lead the international community to solve climate change and prevent international conflict (read more here)

Sanders' climate plan has received accolades from the likes of Bill McKibben, Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Annie Leonard and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. You can read the full plan here.

In the media: 

October 2015: Sen. Bernie Sanders made waves in the first Democratic debate in October when he called climate change the "biggest national security threat" facing the United States.

December 2015: Sanders praised the Paris climate agreement, but said it did not go far enough to tackle climate change: "The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that," he said in a statement.

January 2016: At a town hall meeting at Roosevelt High School in Iowa in January, Sanders was asked a question by a teenage climate skeptic: "I haven't seen any actual scientific evidence that global warming is actually happening," she said. "It's only very recent. So I'd like to know why you think it's happening." He responded politely but firmly: "You're wrong ... It is already causing devastating problems in our country and the world. That is what the scientists are saying."

February 2016: After coming away with a victory in New Hampshire, Sanders used his victory speech to double-down on his stance on climate, saying "It is already causing devastating problems in this country and around the world."

Donald Trump (R)

On his campaign page: New York businessman Donald Trump does not mention climate change on his campaign page. Strangely enough, the former host of NBC's "The Apprentice" doesn't have a page for energy either.

In the media: 

December 2015: In an appearance on "Fox and Friends" in December, Donald Trump said he would not have attended the Paris climate talks if he were president, adding that he "didn't want to say aloud" what world leaders really think of President Obama. "We have a president that doesn't know what he's doing," Trump said. "And all he's worried about is climate change. He thinks climate change is something that's going to kill us and it's not going to kill us at all. It's not going to kill us."

March 2016: Trump doesn't seem to have warmed up to the idea of man-made climate change. In a March interview with the Washington Post, he said: "I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change."

Ted Cruz (R)

On his campaign page: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz does not mention climate change on his campaign website, but he gives us a good look at how he'd approach energy. He calls for a "Great American Energy Renaissance," which includes immediate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and "other similar infrastructures."

Cruz adds: "We need an all-of-the-above energy approach that embraces the bountiful resources in this land — from oil to natural gas to ethanol. We need to open up abundant and affordable gas and electricity resources."

The senator also appears poised to roll back environmental regulations set in motion under President Barack Obama: "A Cruz administration will end the EPA regulations like the Waters of the U.S. rule and the Clean Power Plan that burden small businesses and farmers." He also plans to eliminate the Department of Energy, calling it "the Washington Cartel."

In the media:

December 2015: In an interview with NPR in December, Sen. Cruz said: "The scientific evidence doesn't support global warming. For the last 18 years, the satellite data -- we have satellites that monitor the atmosphere. The satellites that actually measure the temperature showed no significant warming whatsoever."

January 2016: Cruz continued to insist that satellite data debunks climate change, saying in New Hampshire that 2015 was, in fact, not the hottest year on record as scientists claim. “The satellite and weather balloon data do not show 2015 as a record year."

John Kasich (R)

On his campaign page: While he doesn't specifically mention climate change, in a refreshing departure from his Republican cohorts, Ohio Gov. John Kasich does make mention of sustainability:

"Low-cost, reliable energy is the backbone of America’s economy," Kasich wrote on his campaign page. "Too often we have seen America’s energy policies swing wildly between cheap generation and environmental protection, as if those were our only choices. Energy policies that only focus on low costs keep us from seeking technological breakthroughs that can improve efficiency and sustainability. An exclusive focus on unnecessary environmental regulation drives up energy costs and keeps energy independence out of reach. America needs balance."

As part of "The Kasich Plan," the Ohio governor pledges to make America energy independent -- which, he says, includes approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. Kasich also plans to "diversify" the U.S. energy mix and remove "unreasonable barriers" to the development of new technologies like high-capacity batteries, fuel cells and the high-efficiency “smart” electricity grid, his campaign page explains.

In the media: 

October 2015: At a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in October, Gov. Kasich addressed his stance on climate change: “Do I believe there is something called climate change? I do. Do I think that human beings affect it? I do. How much? Not enough for me to go out and cost somebody their job. I don’t know that that’s why you have flooding. I just don’t know enough about it.”

February 2016: At a town hall meeting in Vermont, Kasich said: “I know that human beings affect the climate." He added that he didn’t know “how much individuals affect the climate, but here’s what I do know: I know we need to develop all of the renewables, and we need to do it in an orderly way.” The statements show progress, but when asked about the COP21 summit in December, Kasich replied: "They should have been over there talking about ISIS."

March 2016: In the most recent Republican debate, Kasich again turned to climate: “I do believe we contribute to climate change,” he said. “We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas, we believe in nuclear power, and you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency, renewables.” He later clarified that “we don’t know how much humans actually contribute.”

Image credits: 1) Flickr/Theresa Thompson 2) Flickr/U.S. Embassy 3) Flickr/Phil Roeder 4) Flickr/Gage Skidmore 5) Flickr/Gage Skidmore 6) Flickr/Alex Hanson

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also the co-host of 3BL Forum: Brands Taking Stands LIVE! and the producer of 3p’s sponsored editorial series. She is based in Philadelphia and loves to travel, spend time outdoors and experiment with vegetarian recipes in the kitchen. Along with TriplePundit, her recent work can be found in Conscious Company and VICE’s Motherboard.

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