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The 2016 presidential race: an environmental lowdown

green muse

The 2016 presidential election is nearly upon us, and the candidates are ready to fight. Ingenious debate questions have raised a variety of issues, from the abortion of baby Hitler’s fetus (Ben Carson wouldn’t do it, Jeb Bush would) to foreign policy. Amid the conversations on immigration, economics and Hillary’s secret emails, the environment has taken a backseat. As a concerned environmental science major, I protest. Pollution and climate change will effect the Earth’s entire population, and the United States produces the highest per-capita fossil fuel emissions worldwide. That being said, perhaps it would be a good idea to highlight the candidates’ positions on the future livability of our globe.

And (drumroll please), let’s take a look at Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner. In 2013, he sued unsuccessfully to block plans for wind turbines in Scotland that would provide power for 65,000 homes, arguing that they would ruin the view from a golf course he was proposing to build. He also doesn’t believe in climate change. In November 2012, Trump tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”—apparently it’s their elaborate plan to make us cap our fossil fuel emissions. This past September, he stated that, “unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather”. For Trump, it’s not enough that over 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the Earth’s climate is warming.

According to republican runner-up Ted Cruz, climate scientists are “cooking the books. They’re actually adjusting the numbers”. In other words, he thinks that government researchers are reverse engineering data in order to falsify changes in the climate. Cruz claims that the past 18 years have seen no recorded warming, insisting that “the satellite says it ain’t happening”. In 2015, he opposed the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires corn-based ethanol to be mixed into gasoline, saying that Washington shouldn’t be “picking winners and losers.” Proponents of ethanol argue that, because oil companies own gas stations, consumers can’t access ethanol, and so it needs the government’s support to break through oil’s domination of the market. In 2013, Cruz refused to protect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems by voting no on the Water Resources Development Act of 2013, which would use 12.5 percent of revenues from offshore energy development to fund projects that would restore habitat, manage fisheries, plan for sustainable coastal development and aid ocean research.

Unlike Cruz, democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is no conspiracy theorist. She believes that global warming exists, and even claims that her climate change plan would spur a 700 percent increase in solar capacity by 2020 and generate enough renewable energy to power every American home within 10 years of taking office. After announcing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, she proposed a plan to forge a North American climate compact with Canada and Mexico. Clinton also plans to build upon Obama’s Clean Power Plan—a collection of new Environmental Protection Agency rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Clinton has supported a great deal of environmental legislation—here are some highlights: in 2008 she proposed that five billion dollars be allotted to green-collar jobs in the economic stimulus package, sponsored grants to address beach water pollution under the Clean Water Act and sponsored an inter-state compact for Great Lakes water resources. According to Clinton, “the unprecedented action that President Obama has taken must be protected at all costs.” In other words, she’s ready to pick up where he left off.

Next up, Bernie Sanders. Like Hillary, he supports clean energy tax breaks, rejects Arctic drilling and opposed the Keystone XL pipeline. However, this democratic socialist is the only presidential candidate who opposes hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” —in fact, he wants to ban it outright. Fracking is a controversial drilling method in which a chemical mixture is injected deep underground to extract oil and natural gas. Evidence has linked this procedure with contaminated water, earthquakes and methane leaks. Water contamination in particular carries a high human health risk for inhabitants of fracked areas. Bernie’s position is a controversial one, however—fracking has been an economic goldmine for the U.S. and has reduced our dependence on foreign oil. On other environmental issues, his track record is very similar to that of Hillary—he’s supported a lot of environmental legislation. According to Sanders, “Climate change is threatening this planet in horrendous ways”.

Regarding other presidential candidates: Jeb Bush and Chris Christie believe that climate change exists but oppose regulations to prevent it, while Ben Carson and Marco Rubio doubt the existence of man-made climate change. Among the highest-polling candidates is seems that the environment is a partisan issue. Personally, I’d rather #FeelTheBern or elect Hillary than see our country in the hands of a climate change denier. So here’s to hope.

Caeleigh MacNeil is a Trinity senior. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.

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