Within the two-hour time frame of the third Republican debate, only one question was posed about climate change. Moderator John Harwood directed his query to Gov. Chris Christie. I was waiting for a reply that would reflect an understanding of the havoc extreme weather can wreak. Superstorm Sandy decimated swaths of New Jersey, as 346,000 homes were badly damaged or destroyed.
In answering, Christie immediately referenced Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and John Kerry, stating that their panacea was “to put more taxes on it.” When pressed, he suggested, “investing in all types of energy.” Christie believes that climate change is real (only one in four of the fourteen candidates), and a result of human activity — sort of. He touted his state as a leader in solar energy, while still advocating the use of oil…“absolutely.”
And that was it for the night.
Despite the numerous talking points delivered that were off-topic, no one took the opportunity to reference the economic benefits of renewable energy production on job creation.
Perhaps if the field of candidates were up to date on the latest stats, they would know that 76 percent of Americans subscribe to the scientific findings on climate change.
The University of Texas at Austin has reviewed the numbers for several years in an Energy Poll survey, tracking voter opinion. In the spring of 2012, 45 percent of Republicans accepted the science of climate change. Now, in the fall of 2015, the number has climbed to 59 percent.
When Republican voters were asked to weigh in on whether a candidate’s stance on demanding utility companies set forth percentile requirements mandating the use of “renewable sources,” 51 percent responded that they would be “more likely to support” such a candidate.
The two top front-runners at this time, Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump, do not believe that climate change is a reality. Carson has called the dialogue, “Irrelevant.” None of the top-of-the-card players has stated they will combat climate change if elected, nor have they presented an energy platform geared to reducing toxic emissions. They all support the Keystone Pipeline.
One would think that with the repeated call to awareness from the military community about how the fallout from climate change will lead to global instability, the candidates would be less tone deaf. However, a gleaning of core beliefs by the contenders shows otherwise:
Ted Cruz: Recently set the Internet buzzing with his sound bite from an interview with Glenn Beck. He said, “Climate change is not science. It’s religion.” He receives generous funding from the Koch brothers, and publicly denigrated climate change at one of their events in August 2105.
Marco Rubio: Rubio specifically pits the environment against the economy. He supports offshore gas and oil drilling, would block the Clean Power Plan, and would void the federal regulations on fracking. He is in line to become a top recipient of Koch funding.
Mike Huckabee: Believes that the science is “not settled.”
John Kasich: For every step he takes forward, he takes two backwards. He acknowledges climate change, but then stated in a Meet the Press interview, “We don’t want to destroy people’s jobs, based on some theory that is not proven.” Kasich favors drilling for oil on federal lands and opposes the EPA Clean Power Plan. He would roll back federal fracking regulations.
Carly Fiorina: Has repeatedly suggested, “A single nation acting alone [on climate change] can make no difference at all.” This boils down to positing that the United States should not be a world leader on the climate front, nor take any initiatives since we can’t control what other countries are doing. (Scary, when you think that the next President will be setting the agenda for international climate talks.) Fiorina supports the use of gas and nuclear energy, and touts the benefits of “clean” coal. She believes that regulations on the environmental front can only be detrimental to the economy, but she does espouse tax credits for renewable energy.
Jeb Bush: Would rescind the ban on natural gas and oil exports. He backs using an energy source mix that includes coal, nuclear, and renewables. He has underscored that if he makes it to the White House, he would implement a reversal of the Clean Power Plan put forth by the EPA.
Rand Paul: Hailing from the coal state of Kentucky may be why Paul is against setting a national goal that would commit to establishing 25 percent of all electricity is resourced from renewables by 2025. Along similar lines, he also nixed legislation supporting the installation of solar panels.
As far as any hopes that Rep. Paul Ryan will bring in a new point of view now that he’s taken over the leadership of the House, it’s doubtful. His environmental rating from the League of Conservation Voters is dismal — a Lifetime Score of 12 percent.
The American people are not out of step with the reality of climate change — these candidates are.