How Green are the Candidates for 2016?

Technically, I should be registered with the Green Party. During the season of President Obama’s 2012 election, I took the iSideWith political quiz to see what party my views aligned with, and surprisingly I got the Green Party. Jill Stein 2016 anyone? While Dr. Stein is seeking her party’s nomination for the presidency in 2016 (you can check out her campaign website here), her chances of residing in the West Wing are slim. Thus, it’s worth taking a look at where the leading presidential candidates stand on the environment, from their policies to their personal views.

Here’s the rundown on Carly, Marco, Jeb, Hillary, and Bernie, tentatively in the order from least environmental to the most.

Carly Fiorina:

The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard is taking the GOP and 2016 presidential race by storm; she currently ranks second among Republican candidates, polling at 15 percent as of Monday (up from 3 percent in early September). Even though she wore blue at the last GOP debate, her views on the environment are far from liberal. She is anti-environmentalism and views EPA regulations as too restrictive. In 2010, Fiorina received the “People’s Choice Award” for the notorious Dirty Dozen list, sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters.

When addressing climate change on the campaign trail this summer, Fiorina’s stance is not abnormal for a conservative who is concerned about the economy: she questions whether climate change is real, whether it is worth spending resources on to try to stop, and if it is real, whether the U.S. can help stop it. Unfortunately for Carly, 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists believe that climate change is occurring (according to NASA’s Global Climate Change initiative), so I think I would have to side with the experts on this one.

Lastly, for those living in California — where the effects of the drought are greatly deteriorating the state’s agriculture and exacerbating wildfires — Carly said that the drought is “man-made.” She blames the state’s historic drought on liberal environmentalists. I wonder why she didn’t mention that during the debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley?

Marco Rubio:

The Florida senator has been criticized for taking a stance on climate change characteristic of his party: “spineless” and “bending to the anti-scientist crowd without sounding wholly anti-science,” says the Washington Post. On CBS Face the Nation last April, Rubio said that “humans are not responsible for climate change.” Rubio says he is not sure about scientists’ claims, but what he can say with certainty is that trying to reverse climate change would “have a devastating impact on our economy.”

In 2014, Rubio was in the public spotlight for “back-tracking” on climate change: as a presidential hopeful, Rubio was one of the few Republican frontrunners who recognized climate change, but he lost credibility for denying human activity’s role and denouncing scientists’ claims. As recently as earlier this month, Rubio has announced that he will reverse President Obama’s climate change agenda, also condemning the Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to reduce greenhouse emissions. Like many other Republicans, Rubio’s priorities lie with the economy rather than the environment. If elected in 2016, you can be sure that Rubio will focus more on green dollar bills than green initiatives.

Jeb Bush:

Where Catholic candidates like Rubio did not criticize the Pope’s comments on climate change this summer, Catholic and presidential candidate Jeb Bush did. On Wednesday the former Florida governor attended Pope Francis’s mass in Washington at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. While Bush and his wife kept a low profile at the event, he did not avoid the limelight this summer when he spoke out against the Pope weighing in on climate change. “I think the Pope is an extraordinary leader of the church whose teachings I try to follow,” Bush said in June, according to the New York Times. “That’s why I go to Mass. I don’t go to Mass for economic policy or for things in politics.”

It seems that the son of Bush 41 and brother of Bush 43 has been flip-flopping on climate change. While he criticized the Pope this summer for weighing in on politics, he has said in recent years that “as a public leader, one’s faith should guide you.” At a campaign event in New Hampshire last June, Bush said that the science on global warming is “not complete”; yet he has also offered a “stronger assertion” than many of his Republican rivals that global warming is a threat and the federal government should address it. He opposes Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline and his administration’s Clean Power Plan, but he has suggested creating incentives to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

It’s unfortunate that Jeb Bush has made so many contradictory comments, because he truly does have a more “centrist position” on climate change than most of the Republican presidential field. As the former governor of Florida, he’s vocalized his concern for global warming’s future impact on the city of Miami, as well as the U.S.’s need to “develop a consensus about how to approach” global warming without taking away jobs from Americans or creating hardships for the middle class. He is optimistic about climate change, stating that there are “technical solutions for just about everything, and I’m sure there’s one for [global warming] as well.”

Hillary Clinton:

Clinton’s views are as green as some of her pantsuits, which is very green. Her campaign adviser, John Podesta, was Obama’s senior counselor until last February and specializes in climate change policy. Clinton’s selection of Podesta is “good for climate hawks,” some have said. During her time in the Senate, Clinton supported clean air initiatives and EPA funding, sponsored bills to finance green-collar jobs, and advocated a cap and trade system (On the Issues). In June 2014, she promised the U.S. would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 “to assist poor countries in coping with climate change as long as America’s demands for a global warming pledge are met,” the New York Times reports. Clinton has been praised for her understanding of the science of climate change (she’s spoken at the League of Conservation voters), and advocacy for climate change awareness and women’s rights (she launched a new United Nations initiative for this as Secretary of State).

While the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State is environmentally conscious, she has accepted some money from some not-very-green hands. In April, it was revealed that her family’s Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from Pacific Rubiales, the Colombian oil company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The founder of the company, Canadian Frank Giustra, privately donated millions more to the Clinton Foundation, and now sits on the organization’s board.

Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign has also been tainted by some dirty donors; fossil fuel lobbyists have been raising money for her campaign. These bundlers are linked to industries in big oil, natural gas, and the Keystone Pipeline. Speaking of Keystone, Clinton just voiced her opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline yesterday (September 23rd). Today, she has also made the news by unveiling her plan to make the U.S. a “clean energy superpower,” if elected president. Could Hillary be in the Oval Office again? And would her climate change policies be more successful than her health care initiatives as First Lady? (P.S. You can visit her campaign website page on climate change here. Warning: it seems like a climate change petition, but it’s actually just for the campaign to get your email and then ask if you’ll give $5 or $2,700. Thanks, Hil).

Bernie Sanders:

Last but not least, the Independent senator from Vermont is good at making his fellow presidential candidates #FeeltheBern; but how will he address global warming’s burning impression on our planet? Mother Jones has called Bernie Sanders the “best candidate on climate change” for the 2016 presidential election. Sanders was also ranked the number one climate leader in the Senate for their last congressional session, by the Climate Hawks Vote, a new super PAC.

Has Sanders earned these praises? Absolutely; in 2013 alone, the senator introduced the Climate Protection Act and Residential Energy Savings Act. Sanders also criticized democratic competitor Hillary Clinton earlier this summer, calling her climate change plan “not enough” and vehemently criticizing her failure to take a stance on the Keystone Pipeline (which she just announced she opposed two days ago). The senator is also one of the only 2016 presidential candidates who has called for issue-specific debates, such as one on the environment. “I think environmentalists deserve a debate,” Sanders said, “so we could talk about how we move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.”

One criticism of Sanders’s stance on climate change is that he isn’t promoting it enough. Some critics are saying they expected him to have more agenda-setting with climate change, and so far, his campaigning on the issue has been underwhelming. It also doesn’t help that climate change is an issue buried at the bottom of Sanders’s “laundry list of policy proposals,” a mere 17th in a list of policy issues Sanders prioritizes. As the campaign continues, will Sanders voice his ardent environmental views? Will he continue to say that “climate change is the single greatest threat facing the planet,” as he has said before, or will he cater to a country that views ISIS and Iran’s nuclear program has greater threats? It’s still over a year until the actual election…who knows what could happen?

© Rissponsible Living, 2015

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