Former climate hawk Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday ridiculed Secretary of State John Kerry for treating climate change as a serious foreign policy issue and national security threat, as he once did himself.Appearing on Phoenix radio station KFYI’s The Mike Broomhead Show, McCain said:
Why should he talk about climate change when we’ve got 130,000 people in Syria killed, and, as I predicted on this show many times, when the Geneva thing is a fiasco, and the US-Iran talks are obviously a joke, and the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations haven’t even begun? John Kerry and the president, they could be hitting the trifecta here, gross failure in all three. So he has to go over to Asia and talk about climate change and say it’s the most important issue? Hello? On what planet does he reside?
“Kerry is obviously butterflying around the world,” McCain added, “saying all kinds of things.”
As Nicholas Stern, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many others have pointed out, rapidly accelerating global climate change is a “threat multiplier,” a destabilizing force that increases the risk of armed conflict over degraded resources and forced mass migrations. We are already seeing this in action, experts point out. For example, the polluted climate helped precipitate the ongoing Syrian conflict. Climate change poses “real security concerns” to the Middle East, the International Institute of Sustainable Development cautioned in 2009.
Ten years ago, McCain was criticizing John Kerry for not talking enough about the threat of global warming.
In 2004, McCain described the threat of global warming as “very, very serious” and challenged John Kerry to talk about the issue on the campaign trail.
McCain continued for years, until his failed run for the presidency in 2008 led him towards climate denial, to speak with passion about the importance of taking action on the climate crisis. In 2006, McCain called climate inaction “a crime to our children and grandchildren.” In 2007, McCain claimed he would make climate change a “top agenda” because “it’s such a threat to our planet and our future and our children.” In a 2007 GOP presidential debate, McCain said that he would establish “a national security requirement that we reduce and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil — and we stop the contamination of our atmosphere, which is climate change, which is real and is taking place.”
In 2008, McCain said the “facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington” and that “global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. “
2008: FIRST MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
MCCAIN: Nuclear power is not only important as far as eliminating our dependence on foreign oil but it’s also responsibility as far as climate change is concerned. An issue I have been involved in for many, many years and I’m proud of the work of the work that I’ve done there along with Senator Clinton.
OBAMA: Over 26 years, Senator McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel. And so we — we — we’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to energy independence, because this is probably going to be just as vital for our economy and the pain that people are feeling at the pump — and, you know, winter’s coming and home heating oil — as it is our national security and the issue of climate change that’s so important.
SECOND MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
QUESTION: Senator McCain, I want to know, we saw that Congress moved pretty fast in the face of an economic crisis. I want to know what you would do within the first two years to make sure that Congress moves fast as far as environmental issues, like climate change and green jobs?
MCCAIN: Well, thank you. Look, we are in tough economic times; we all know that. And let’s keep — never forget the struggle that Americans are in today. But when we can — when we have an issue that we may hand our children and our grandchildren a damaged planet, I have disagreed strongly with the Bush administration on this issue. I traveled all over the world looking at the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, Joe Lieberman and I. And I introduced the first legislation, and we forced votes on it. That’s the good news, my friends. The bad news is we lost. But we kept the debate going, and we kept this issue to — to posing to Americans the danger that climate change opposes. Now, how — what’s — what’s the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that. Look, I — I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it’s clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. And — and I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel. The Japanese, the British, the French do it. And we can do it, too. Senator Obama has opposed that. We can move forward, and clean up our climate, and develop green technologies, and alternate — alternative energies for — for hybrid, for hydrogen, for battery-powered cars, so that we can clean up our environment and at the same time get our economy going by creating millions of jobs. We can do that, we as Americans, because we’re the best innovators, we’re the best producers, and 95 percent of the people who are our market live outside of the United States of America.
BROKAW: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: This is one of the biggest challenges of our times.
OBAMA: And it is absolutely critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it’s an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily, here in the United States. It can be an engine that drives us into the future the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades. And we can do it, but we’re going to have to make an investment. The same way the computer was originally invented by a bunch of government scientists who were trying to figure out, for defense purposes, how to communicate, we’ve got to understand that this is a national security issue, as well. And that’s why we’ve got to make some investments and I’ve called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal. Contrary to what Senator McCain keeps on saying, I favor nuclear power as one component of our overall energy mix. But this is another example where I think it is important to look at the record. Senator McCain and I actually agree on something. He said a while back that the big problem with energy is that for 30 years, politicians in Washington haven’t done anything. What Senator McCain doesn’t mention is he’s been there 26 of them. And during that time, he voted 23 times against alternative fuels, 23 times. So it’s easy to talk about this stuff during a campaign, but it’s important for us to understand that it requires a sustained effort from the next president. One last point I want to make on energy. Senator McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that’s important, but we have three percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. So what that means is that we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem. And we’re not going to be able to deal with the climate crisis if our only solution is to use more fossil fuels that create global warming. We’re going to have to come up with alternatives, and that means that the United States government is working with the private sector to fund the kind of innovation that we can then export to countries like China that also need energy and are setting up one coal power plant a week. We’ve got to make sure that we’re giving them the energy that they need or helping them to create the energy that they need.
THIRD MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
SCHIEFFER: Let’s go to — let’s go to a new topic. We’re running a little behind. Let’s talk about energy and climate control. Every president since Nixon has said what both of you…
MCCAIN: Climate change.
SCHIEFFER: Climate change, yes — has said what both of you have said, and, that is, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. When Nixon said it, we imported from 17 to 34 percent of our foreign oil. Now, we’re importing more than 60 percent. Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term? And I believe the first question goes to you, Senator McCain. MCCAIN: I believe we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine. By the way, when Senator Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, “Yes, and we’ll sell our oil to China.” You don’t tell countries you’re going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them. We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. We can store and we can reprocess. Senator Obama will tell you, in the — as the extreme environmentalists do, it has to be safe. Look, we’ve sailed Navy ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them. We can store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Senator Obama, no problem. So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that’s hurting rather badly. So I think we can easily, within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security if we don’t achieve our independence.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and by how much in the first term, in four years?
OBAMA: I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that’s about a realistic timeframe. And this is the most important issue that our future economy is going to face. Obviously, we’ve got an immediate crisis right now. But nothing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. It’s mortgaging our children’s future. Now, from the start of this campaign, I’ve identified this as one of my top priorities and here is what I think we have to do. Number one, we do need to expand domestic production and that means, for example, telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them. And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil, which means that we can’t drill our way out of the problem. That’s why I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that’s built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America. We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.
OBAMA: Now I just want to make one last point because Senator McCain mentioned NAFTA and the issue of trade and that actually bears on this issue. I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration with the support of Senator McCain, the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. And NAFTA doesn’t have — did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements. And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable. In the same way that we should enforce rules against China manipulating its currency to make our exports more expensive and their exports to us cheaper. And when it comes to South Korea, we’ve got a trade agreement up right now, they are sending hundreds of thousands of South Korean cars into the United States. That’s all good. We can only get 4,000 to 5,000 into South Korea. That is not free trade. We’ve got to have a president who is going to be advocating on behalf of American businesses and American workers and I make no apology for that.
OCTOBER 2, 2008 BIDEN-PALIN VP DEBATE
IFILL: Governor, I’m happy to talk to you in this next section about energy issues. Let’s talk about climate change. What is true and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, debated about the causes of climate change?
PALIN: Yes. Well, as the nation’s only Arctic state and being the governor of that state, Alaska feels and sees impacts of climate change more so than any other state. And we know that it’s real. I’m not one to attribute every man — activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man’s activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet. But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts? We have got to clean up this planet. We have got to encourage other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that. As governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We’ve got to reduce emissions. John McCain is right there with an “all of the above” approach to deal with climate change impacts. We’ve got to become energy independent for that reason. Also as we rely more and more on other countries that don’t care as much about the climate as we do, we’re allowing them to produce and to emit and even pollute more than America would ever stand for. So even in dealing with climate change, it’s all the more reason that we have an “all of the above” approach, tapping into alternative sources of energy and conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum products and our hydrocarbons so that we can clean up this planet and deal with climate change.
IFILL: Senator, what is true and what is false about the causes?
BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it’s clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden — Governor Palin and Joe Biden. If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That’s the cause. That’s why the polar icecap is melting. Now, let’s look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels. The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting. We believe — Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it. China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It’s polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology. We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled. In the meantime, we’re all going to be in real trouble.
IFILL: Let me clear something up, Senator McCain has said he supports caps on carbon emissions. Senator Obama has said he supports clean coal technology, which I don’t believe you’ve always supported.
BIDEN: I have always supported it. That’s a fact.
IFILL: Well, clear it up for us, both of you, and start with Governor Palin.
PALIN: Yes, Senator McCain does support this. The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. And we’re building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline which is North America’s largest and most you expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets. Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we’re in. You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that. But also in that “all of the above” approach that Senator McCain supports, the alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal. I was surprised to hear you mention that because you had said that there isn’t anything — such a thing as clean coal. And I think you said it in a rope line, too, at one of your rallies.
IFILL: We do need to keep within our two minutes. But I just wanted to ask you, do you support capping carbon emissions?
PALIN: I do. I do.
IFILL: OK. And on the clean coal issue?
BIDEN: Absolutely. Absolutely we do. We call for setting hard targets, number one…
IFILL: Clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, I’m sorry.
IFILL: On clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won’t be as dirty, it will be clean. But here’s the bottom line, Gwen: How do we deal with global warming with continued addition to carbon emissions? And if the only answer you have is oil, and John — and the governor says John is for everything. Well, why did John vote 20 times? Maybe he’s for everything as long as it’s not helped forward by the government. Maybe he’s for everything if the free market takes care of it. I don’t know. But he voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources.
OCTOBER 8, 2004 KERRY-BUSH SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE – TOWNHALL STYLE
HUBB: Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist? What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation’s air and water supply?
BUSH: Off-road diesel engines — we have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent. I’ve got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We’ve got an aggressive brown field program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property. I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent. I have — was fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat. We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with — particularly in Western states — to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens in those forests, because of lousy federal policy, is they grow to be — they are not — they’re not harvested. They’re not taken care of. And as a result, they’re like tinderboxes. And over the last summers I’ve flown over there. And so, this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and at the same time make sure our forests aren’t vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West. We’ve got a good, common-sense policy. Now, I’m going to tell you what I really think is going to happen over time is technology is going to change the way we live for the good for the environment. That’s why I proposed a hydrogen automobile — hydrogen-generated automobile. We’re spending $1 billion to come up with the technologies to do that. That’s why I’m a big proponent of clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal but in a clean way. I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land. The quality of the air’s cleaner since I’ve been the president. Fewer water complaints since I’ve been the president. More land being restored since I’ve been the president. Thank you for your question.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, minute and a half.
KERRY: Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don’t think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you’re a Red Sox fan, that’s OK. But if you’re a president, it’s not. Let me just say to you, number one, don’t throw the labels around. Labels don’t mean anything. I supported welfare reform. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. I’ve been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene in the lives of young children for years. I was — broke with my party in 1985, one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget when it was heresy. Labels don’t fit, ladies and gentlemen. Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history. The Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it’s one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something, like “No Child Left Behind” but you leave millions of children behind. Here they’re leaving the skies and the environment behind. If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner than it is if you pass the Clear Skies act. We’re going backwards. In fact, his environmental enforcement chief air-quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they’re doing to what they are calling the new source performance standards for air quality. They’re going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They’re going backwards on the water quality. They pulled out of the global warming, declared it dead, didn’t even accept the science. I’m going to be a president who believes in science.
GIBSON: Mr. President?
BUSH: Well, had we joined the Kyoto treaty, which I guess he’s referring to, it would have cost America a lot of jobs. It’s one of these deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty. But I thought it would cost a lot — I think there’s a better way to do it. And I just told you the facts, sir. The quality of the air is cleaner since I’ve been the president of the United States. And we’ll continue to spend money on research and development, because I truly believe that’s the way to get from how we live today to being able to live a standard of living that we’re accustomed to and being able to protect our environment better, the use of technologies.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed. I was in Kyoto, and I was part of that. I know what happened. But this president didn’t try to fix it. He just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years. You wonder, Nikki, why it is that people don’t like us in some parts of the world. You just say: Hey, we don’t agree with you. Goodbye. The president’s done nothing to try to fix it. I will.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2004 KERRY-BUSH DEBATE
KERRY: You don’t help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations. …. What I worry about with the president is that he’s not acknowledging what’s on the ground, he’s not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he’s not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues.
OCTOBER 11, 2000 BUSH-GORE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
MODERATOR: New question, new subject. Vice President Gore, on the environment. In your 1992 book you said, quote, “We must make the rescue of our environment the central organizing principle for civilization and there must be a wrenching transformation to save the planet.” Do you still feel that way?
GORE: I do. I think that in this 21st century we will soon see the consequences of what’s called global warming. There was a study just a few weeks ago suggesting that in summertime the north polar ice cap will be completely gone in 50 years. Already many people see the strange weather conditions that the old timers say they’ve never seen before in their lifetimes. And what’s happening is the level of pollution is increasing significantly. Now, here is the good news, Jim. If we take the leadership role and build the new technologies, like the new kinds of cars and trucks that Detroit is itching to build, then we can create millions of good new jobs by being first into the market with these new kinds of cars and trucks and other kinds of technologies. You know the Japanese are breathing down our necks on this. They’re moving very rapidly because they know that it is a fast-growing world market. Some of these other countries, particularly in the developing world, their pollution is much worse than anywhere else and their people want higher standards of living. And so they’re looking for ways to satisfy their desire for a better life and still reduce pollution at the same time. I think that holding onto the old ways and the old argument that the environment and the economy are in conflict is really outdated. We have to be bold. We have to provide leadership. Now it’s true that we disagree on this. The governor said that he doesn’t think this problem is necessarily caused by people. He’s for letting the oil companies into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Houston has just become the smoggiest city in the country. And Texas is number one in industrial pollution. We have a very different outlook. And I’ll tell you this, I will fight for a clean environment in ways that strengthen our economy.
BUSH: Well, let me start with Texas. We are a big industrial state. We reduced our industrial waste by 11%. We cleaned up more brown fields than any other administration in my state’s history, 450 of them. Our water is cleaner now.
MODERATOR: Explain what a brown field is to those who don’t follow this.
BUSH: A brown field is an abandoned industrial site that just sits idle in some of our urban centers. And people are willing to invest capital in the brown fields don’t want to do so for fear of lawsuit. I think we ought to have federal liability protection, depending upon whether or not standards have been met. The book you mentioned that Vice President Gore wrote, he also called for taxing — big energy taxes in order to clean up the environment. And now that the energy prices are high, I guess he’s not advocating those big energy taxes right now. I believe we ought to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to — with half the money going to states so states can make the right decisions for environmental quality. I think we need to have clean coal technologies. I propose $2 billion worth. By the way, I just found out the other day an interesting fact, that there is a national petroleum reserve right next to — in Prudhoe Bay that your administration opened up for exploration in that pristine area. And it was a smart move because there’s gas reserves up there. We need gas pipelines to bring the gas down. Gas is a clean fuel that we can burn to — we need to make sure that if we decontrol our plants that there’s mandatory — that the plants must conform to clean air standards, the grandfathered plants, that’s what we did in Texas. No excuses. You must conform. In other words, there are practical things we can do. But it starts with working in a collaborative effort with states and local folks. If you own the land, every day is Earth Day. People care a lot about their land and care about their environment. Not all wisdom is in Washington, D.C. on this issue.
MODERATOR: Where do you see the basic difference in very simple terms in two or three sentences between you and the governor on the environment? If a voter wants to make a choice, what is it?
GORE: I’m really strongly committed to clean water and clean air, and cleaning up the new kinds of challenges like global warming. He is right that I’m not in favor of energy taxes. I am in favor of tax cuts to encourage and give incentives for the quicker development of these new kinds of technologies. And let me say again, Detroit is rearing to go on that. We differ on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as I have said. We differ on whether or not pollution controls ought to be voluntary. I don’t think you can — I don’t think you can get results that way. We differ on the kinds of appointments that we would make.
MODERATOR: Would you say it’s a fundamental difference?
GORE: I think it’s a fundamental difference. Let me give you an example.
MODERATOR: Hold on one second.
GORE: Okay, sure.
MODERATOR: We’ve talked about supply. I just want to know for somebody — we’re getting close to the end of our time here. If somebody wanted to vote on the environment, how would you draw the differences, Governor?
BUSH: Well, I don’t believe in command and control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but again I think we ought to be collaborative at the local levels and I think we ought to work with people at the local levels. And by the way, I just want to make sure — I can’t let him just say something and not correct it. The electric decontrol bill that I fought for and signed in Texas has mandatory emission standards, Mr. Vice President. That’s what we ought to do at the federal level when it comes to grandfathered plants for utilities. I think there’s a difference. I think, for example, take — when they took 40 million acres of land out of circulation without consulting local officials, I thought that was —
MODERATOR: That was out in the west?
BUSH: Out in the west, yeah. And so — on the logging issue. That’s not the way I would have done it. Perhaps some of that land needs to be set aside. But I certainly would have consulted with governors and elected officials before I would have acted unilaterally.
MODERATOR: Would you believe the federal government still has some new rules and new regulations and new laws to pass in the environmental area or do you think —
BUSH: Sure, absolutely, so long as they’re based upon science and they’re reasonable. So long as people have input.
MODERATOR: What about global warming?
BUSH: I think it’s an issue that we need to take very seriously. But I don’t think we know the solution to global warming yet. And I don’t think we’ve got all the facts before we make decisions. I tell you one thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world’s air. Like Kyoto Treaty would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty. I think we need to be more even-handed, as evidently 99 senators — I think it was 99 senators supported that position.
MODERATOR: Global warming, the Senate did turn it down. I think —
BUSH: 99 to nothing.
GORE: Well, that vote wasn’t exactly — a lot of the supporters of the Kyoto Treaty actually ended up voting for that because the way it was worded. But there’s no doubt there’s a lot of opposition to it in the Senate. I’m not for command and control techniques either. I’m for working with the groups, not just with industry but also with the citizen groups and local communities to control sprawl in ways that the local communities themselves come up with. But I disagree that we don’t know the cause of global warming. I think that we do. It’s pollution, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals that are even more potent, but in smaller quantities, that cause this. Look, the world’s temperature is going up, weather patterns are changing, storms are getting more violent and unpredictable. What are we going to tell our children? I’m a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson when I’m in my later years that I didn’t turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my faith tradition, it is — it’s written in the book of Matthew, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure also.” And I believe that — that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the environment in a way that’s good for them.
BUSH: Yeah, I agree. I just — I think there has been — some of the scientists, I believe, Mr. Vice President, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming? A profound scientist recently made a different —
MODERATOR: Both of you have now violated — excuse me. Both of you have now violated your own rules. Hold that thought.
GORE: I’ve been trying so hard not to.
MODERATOR: I know, I know. But under your alls rules you are not allowed to ask each other a question. I let you do it a moment ago.
MODERATOR: Now you just — twice, sorry. (LAUGHTER)
GORE: That’s an interruption, by the way.
MODERATOR: That’s an interruption, okay. But anyhow, you just did it so now —
BUSH: I’m sorry. I apologize, Mr. Vice President.
MODERATOR: You aren’t allowed to do that either, see? (LAUGHTER) I’m sorry, go ahead and finish your thought. People care about these things I’ve found out.
BUSH: Of course they care about them. Oh, you mean the rules.
MODERATOR: Yeah, right, exactly right. Go ahead.
BUSH: What the heck. I — of course there’s a lot — look, global warming needs to be taken very seriously, and I take it seriously. But science, there’s a lot — there’s differing opinions. And before we react, I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place. And I think to answer your question, I think both of us care a lot about the environment. We may have different approaches. We may have different approaches in terms of how we deal with local folks. I just cited an example of the administration just unilaterally acting without any input. And I remember you gave a very good answer to New Hampshire about the White Mountains, about how it was important to keep that collaborative effort in place. I feel very strongly the same place. It certainly wasn’t the attitude that took place out west, however.
OCTOBER 9, 1996 KEMP-GORE VP DEBATE
LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, some Democrats have charged that the environment would be in jeopardy if Mr. Kemp and Senator Dole are elected. Do you share that fear?
GORE: I certainly do. Let me first say that. In citing John F. Kennedy’s tax cut in the 1960s, I want to also remind you that Mr. Kemp has pointed out in the past, Bob Dole was in the Congress then. He was one of those who voted against John F. Kennedy’s tax cut. The environment faces dire threats from the kind of legislation that Senator Dole and Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to pass by shutting down the government and attempting to force President Clinton to accept it. They invited the lobbyists for the biggest polluters in America to come into the Congress and literally rewrite the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. President Clinton stopped them dead in their tracks. We have a positive agenda on the environment because we believe very deeply that it’s about our children and our future. Clean air and clean water, cleaning up toxic waste sites, when millions of children live within one mile of them. That’s important. We have a plan to clean up two-thirds of the toxic waste sites in America over the next four years. We’ve already cleaned up more in the last three years than the previous two administrations did in 12. The President just set aside the Utah National Monument. He is protecting the Everglades here in Florida. Bob Dole is opposed to that plan. President Bill Clinton will protect our environment and prevent the kind of attacks on it that we saw in the last Congress and are included in the Republican platform.
KEMP: And so will Bob Dole. I mean, Al, get real. Franklin Roosevelt said in 1932 that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The only thing, Jim, they have to offer is fear. Fear of the environment, fear of the climate, fear of Medicare, fear of Newt, fear of Republicans, fear of Bob, and probably fear of cutting tax rates. They ain’t seen nothing yet. Look, we recognize that this country has to live in balance with our environment. Every one of us who have children and grandchildren recognize how we have to reach a balance. It is not jobs versus our environment. Both are important. This is the most overregulated, overly litigated economy in our nation’s history. And to call a businessman or woman who sits down and has a chance to express his or her interest in how to make these laws work and call them a polluter is just outrageous. It is typical of the anti-capitalistic mentality of this administration. That will change, because we believe in democratic capitalism for everybody.
GORE: There are lots of jobs to be created in cleaning up the environment. All around the world we’re seeing problems that people want to solve because they love their children. They want them to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air. They don’t want them to live next to toxic waste sites. When the United States of America takes the lead in protecting the environment, we do right by our children, and we also create new business opportunities, new jobs, new sources of prosperity for the United States of America, and we’re going about it in a common sense way.
OCTOBER 13, 1992 GORE-QUAYLE-STOCKDALE VP DEBATE
BRUNO: Okay, I’m not pointing any fingers. Let’s talk about the environment — we’ll get away from controversy. (Laughter) Everyone wants a safe and clean environment, but there’s an ongoing conflict between environmental protection and the need for economic growth and jobs. So the point I throw out on the table is, how do you resolve this conflict between protection of the environment and growth in jobs, and why has it taken so long to deal with basic problems, such as toxic waste dumps, clean air and clean water? And, Vice President Quayle, it’s your turn to start first.
QUAYLE: Hal, that’s a false choice. You don’t have to have a choice between the environment and jobs — you can have both. Look at the president’s record: clean air legislation passed the Democratic Congress because of the leadership of George Bush. It is the most comprehensive clean air act in our history. We are firmly behind preserving our environment, and we have a good record with which to stand. The question comes about: What is going to be their position when it comes to the environment? I say it’s a false choice. You ought to ask somebody in Michigan, a UAW worker in Michigan, if they think increasing the CAFE standards, the fuel economy standards, to 45 miles a gallon is a good idea — 300,000 people out of work. You ought to talk to the timber people in the Northwest where they say that, well, we can only save the owl, forget about jobs. You ought to talk to the coal miners. They’re talking about putting a coal tax on. They’re talking about a tax on utilities, a tax on gasoline and home heating oil — all sorts of taxes. No, Hal, the choice isn’t the environment and jobs. With the right policies — prudent policies — we can have both.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale.
STOCKDALE: I read Senator Gore’s book about the environment and I don’t see how he could possibly pay for his proposals in today’s economic climate.
(APPLAUSE) You know, the Marshall Plan of the environment, and so forth. And also, I’m told by some experts that the things that he fears most might not be all that dangerous, according to some scientists. You know, you can overdo, I’m told, environmental cleaning up. If you purify the pond, the water lilies die. You know, I love this planet and I want it to stay here, but I don’t like to have it the private property of fanatics that want to overdo this thing.
BRUNO: Senator Gore.
GORE: Bill Clinton and I believe we can create millions of new jobs by leading the environmental revolution instead of dragging our feet and bringing up the rear. You know, Japan and Germany are both opening proclaiming to the world now that the biggest new market in the history of world business is the market for the new products and technologies that foster economic progress without environmental destruction. Why is the Japanese business organization — the largest one they have, the Ki Den Ren (phonetic), arguing for tougher environmental standards than those embodied in US law? Why is MITI — their trade organization — calling on all Japanese corporations everywhere in the world to exceed by as much as possible the environmental standards of every country in which they’re operating? Well, maybe they’re just dumb about business competition. But maybe they know something that George Bush and Dan Quayle don’t know — that the future will call for greater efficiency and greater environmental efficiency. This is a value an issue that touches my basic values. I’m taught in my religious tradition that we are given dominion over the Earth, but we’re required to be good stewards of the Earth, and that means to take care of it. We’re not doing that now under the Bush-Quayle policies. They have gutted the Clean Air Act. They have broken his pledge to be the environmental president. Bill Clinton and I will change that.
BRUNO: Okay. Discussion period now. Again, leave time for each other, please. Vice President Quayle, go ahead.
QUAYLE: Well, I’m tempted to yield to Admiral Stockdale on this. But I — you know, the fact of the matter is that one of the proposals that Senator Gore has suggested is to have the taxpayers of America spend $100 billion a year on environmental projects in foreign countries —
GORE: That’s not true —
QUAYLE: Foreign aid — well, Senator, it’s in your book. On page 304 —
GORE: No, it’s not.
QUAYLE: It is there.
(APPLAUSE) It is in your book. You know, Hal, I wanted to bring the Gore book tonight, because I figured he was going to pull a Bill Clinton on me and he has. Because he’s going to disavow what’s in his book. It’s in your book —
QUAYLE: It comes out to $100 billion of foreign aid for environmental projects.
BRUNO: All right. Let’s give him a chance to answer.
QUAYLE: Now, how are we going to pay for it? How are we going to pay for an extra $100 billion of the taxpayers’ money for this?
GORE: Dan, I appreciate you reading my book very much, but you’ve got it wrong.
QUAYLE: No, I’ve got it right.
GORE: There’s no such proposal.
QUAYLE: Okay, well, we’ll find —
BRUNO: Let him talk, Mr Vice President. Let the senator talk. Go ahead.
GORE: There is no such proposal. What I have called upon is a cooperative effort by the US and Europe and Asia to work together in opening up new markets throughout the world for the new technologies that are necessary in order to reconcile the imperatives of economic progress with the imperatives of environmental protection. Take Mexico City for an example. They are shutting down factories right now, not because of their economy, but because they’re choking to death on the air pollution. They’re banning automobiles some days of the week. Now what they want is not new laser-guided missile systems. What they want are new engines and new factories and new products that don’t pollute the air and the water, but nevertheless allow them to have a decent standard of living for their people. Last year 35 % of our exports went to developing countries, countries where the population is expanding worldwide by as much as one billion people every ten years. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that we don’t face a global environmental crisis, nor should we assume that it’s going to cost jobs. Quite the contrary. We are going to be able to create jobs as Japan and Germany are planning to do right now, if we have the guts to leave. Now earlier we heard about the auto industry and the timber industry. There have been 250,000 jobs lost in the automobile industry during the Reagan-Bush-Quayle years. There have been tens of thousands of jobs lost in the timber industry. What they like to do is point the finger of blame with one hand and hand out pink slips with the other hand. They’ve done a poor job both with the economy and the environment.
(APPLAUSE.) It’s time for a change.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, you had something you wanted to say here?
STOCKDALE: I know that — I read where Senator Gore’s mentor had disagree with some of the scientific data that is in his book. How do you respond to those criticisms of that sort? Do you —
QUAYLE: Deny it.
GORE: Well — (Laughter.)
STOCKDALE: Do you take this into account? (Laughter.)
GORE: No, I — let me respond. Thank you, Admiral, for saying that. You’re talking about Roger Revelle. His family wrote a lengthy letter saying how terribly he had been misquoted and had his remarks taken completely out of context just before he died. (Jeers.) He believed up until the day he died — no, it’s true, he died last year —
BRUNO: I’d ask the audience to stop, please.
GORE: — and just before he died, he co- authored an article which was — had statements taken completely out of context. In fact the vast majority of the world’s scientists — and they have worked on this extensively — believe that we must have an effort to face up to the problems we face with the environment. And if we just stick out heads in the sand and pretend that it’s not real, we’re not doing ourselves a favor. Even worse than that, we’re telling our children and all future generations that we weren’t willing to face up to this obligation.
QUAYLE: Hal, can I —
GORE: I believe that we have a mandate —
BRUNO: Sure. We’ve still got time.
GORE: — to try to solve this problem, particularly when we can do it while we create jobs in the process.
BRUNO: Go ahead, Mr. Vice President, there’s still time. Not much, though.
QUAYLE: I know it. We’ve got to have a little equal time here now, Hal. In the book you also suggest taxes on gasoline, taxes on utilities, taxes on carbon, taxes on timber. There’s a whole host of taxes. And I don’t just — I don’t believe raising taxes is the way to solve our environmental problems. And you talk about the bad situation in the auto industry. You seem to say that the answer is, well, I’ll just make it that much worse by increasing the CAFE standards. Yes, the auto industry is hurting, it’s been hurting for a long time, and increasing the CAFE standards to 45 miles per gallon, like you and Bill Clinton are suggesting, will put, as I said, 300,000 people out of work.
OCTOBER 5, 1988: BENTSEN-QUAYLE VP DEBATE
MARGOLIS: Senator, we’ve all just finished – most America has just finished one of the hottest summers it can remember. And apparently this year will be the fifth out of the last nine that are among the hottest on record. No one knows, but most scientists think, that something we’re doing, human beings are doing, are exacerbating this problem, and that this could, in a couple of generations, threaten our descendants comfort and health and perhaps even their existence. As Vice President what would you urge our government to do to deal with this problem? And specifically as a Texan, could you support a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels which might be necessary down the road?
BENTSEN: Well, I think what you can do in that one, and which would be very helpful, is to use a lot more natural gas, which burns a lot cleaner. And what Mike Dukakis has said is that he’ll try to break down those regulatory roadblocks that you have in the regulatory agency that denies much of the passage of that natural gas to the northeast, a way, in turn, can fight against acid rain which is another threat, because it’s sterilizing our lakes, it’s killing our fish. And it’s interesting to me to see in the resume of Senator Quayle that he brags on the fact that he’s been able to fight the acid rain legislation. I don’t think that that’s a proper objective in trying to clean up this environment. But the greenhouse effect is one that has to be a threat to all of us, and we have to look for alternative sources of fuel. And I’ve supported that very strongly. The Department of Energy is one that has cut back substantially on the study of those alternative sources of fuels. We can use other things that’ll help the farmer. We can convert corn to ethanol, and I would push for that very strong. So absolutely. I’ll do those things that are necessary to put the environment of our country number one. Because if we don’t protect that, we’ll destroy the future of our children. And we must be committed to trying – to clean up the water, clean up the air, and do everything we can, not only from a research standpoint, but also in the applied legislation to see that that’s carried out.
WOODRUFF: Senator Quayle?
QUAYLE: Vice President George Bush has said that he will take on the environmental problem. He has said further that he will deal with the acid rain legislation and reduce millions of tons of the S02 content. That legislation won’t get through the Congress this year. But it will get through in a George Bush Administration, a George Bush Administration that is committed to the environment. Now the greenhouse effect is an important environmental issue. It is important for us to get the data in, to see what alternatives we might have to the fossil fuels, and make sure we know what we’re doing. And there are some explorations and things that we can consider in this area. The drought highlighted the problem that we have, and therefore, we need to get on with it, and in a George Bush Administration, you can bet that we will.
From the Wonk Room.
“We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore,” says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that found the estimates of a 240-year supply of coal in the United States to be grossly inflated, as “relatively little of it can be profitably extracted.”
The Congressional Budget Office has released its cost estimate of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), finding that it would reduce budget deficits “about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”
In a mock hearing today, Republican senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jim Bunning (R-KY) “will propose building 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years” instead of a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
From ThinkProgress’s Ali Frick.
Today, the right wing – enthusiastically joined by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) – attacked Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for advocating in a January interview a cap and trade plan that would reward new coal plants built with carbon capture technology. McCain said he wanted to control emissions, but insisted, “I’m not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt.” Palin claimed Obama has been “talking about bankrupting the coal industry,” and pledged, “John McCain and I, we will not let that happen to the coal industry.”
Now former governor Mitt Romney is using McCain’s attacks against Obama to attack McCain himself. On Glenn Beck’s radio show today, he denounced McCain’s cap and trade program, saying it would “kill jobs” in the U.S. and that he would “endeavor to convince” McCain to change his plans:
BECK: How would you address the cap and trade on the day when everyone’s paying attention to coal?
ROMNEY: Well as you know, there were a number of places in the primary campaign where I disagreed with John McCain, and his cap and trade proposal was one of them. ... If you want to negotiate with someone and you feel it’s important to bring down global CO2 emissions then China has to be part of the picture. And if we go out there and put a burden on our own industry and they don’t put a burden on theirs, why you’ll just kill jobs here.
From the Wonk Room.Both presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) have called for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in the United States. Coal-fired power plants, which produce about 49 percent of U.S. electricity, account for 83 percent of power-sector emissions. Because of the global warming footprint, the cheapness of coal-fired electricity is illusory. Under a cap-and-trade system, the cost of those emissions – now a market externality – would have a dollar cost. In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama used blunt language to describe how a cap and trade system would change the future of the power sector:
That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.Obama’s statements carry the same sentiment as his opponent. At a September 15 townhall meeting in Orlando, FL, McCain warned against building new coal plants:
We’re going to build new plants that generate energy, my friends, we’re going to build them. We’ve got to. There’s an increased demand for it. And it seems to me, it’s going to be coal, which I believe will increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, or it’s going to be nuclear, or it’s going to be clean coal technology.In the San Francisco Chronicle interview, Obama similarly stated that the future of power involves coal:
But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.Under either candidate’s cap and trade program, constructing new coal plants that do not employ “clean coal technology” – that is, carbon capture and sequestration technology – would raise costs “dramatically.” Independent analysts have found that new coal plants would “create significant financial risks for shareholders and ratepayers” because of the likely cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, energy providers will have a financial incentive to pursue alternative energy and energy efficiency. McCain explained the market signal of a cap and trade program in his May 12 speech on climate change:
And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. . . A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy.
McCain emphasized who the winners under a carbon cap-and-trade system are: “clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels.” The market “incentive,” “reward,” or “signal” is a euphemism that the winners will make money because the losers will pay more. And the losers, above all, are traditional coal plants—no matter who is elected president.
Sen. McCain’s (R-Ariz.) running mate pick, Gov. Sarah Palin, is a proud evangelical conservative who questions anthropogenic climate change and evolution.In January of this year, she questioned climate models that show the threat of extinction of polar bears due to the loss of sea ice:
In fact, there is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the Endangered Species Act. . . The possible listing of a healthy species like the polar bear would be based on uncertain modeling of possible effects. This is simply not justified.Following the decision to list polar bears as a threatened species in May, Palin chose to file suit to overturn the listing. She argued:
We believe that the Service’s decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available.In a Newsmax interview released today, Palin questioned the science of manmade global warming:
A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
This position is in opposition to the global scientific community, the leaders of every nation on the planet, and her running mate.Similarly, Palin is an advocate of teaching creationism in opposition to natural selection:
Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, she said “I won’t have religion as a litmus test, or anybody’s personal opinion on evolution or creationism.”
A Bush administration proposal that would eliminate the input of independent government scientists in some endangered species reviews would be tossed out if Democrat Barack Obama wins the White House, his campaign says.
“This 11th-hour ruling from the Bush administration is highly problematic. After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation’s most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it,” said Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro. “As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush.”
A spokesman for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, said he had no comment on Bush’s revisions.
The Associated Press reported Monday details of a proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments that would change how the 1973 law is implemented, allowing federal agencies to decide for themselves — without seeking the opinions of government wildlife experts — whether dams, highways and other projects have the potential to harm endangered species and habitats.
Current law requires federal agencies to consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service if a project poses so much as a remote risk to species or habitats.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne defended the changes in a call with reporters Monday, calling them narrow modifications to make the law more clear and efficient.
In recent years, both federal agencies and developers have complained that the reviews, which can result in changes to projects that better protect species, have delayed work and increased costs.
The proposed regulations, which will be published Thursday in the Federal Register, included one significant change from the earlier draft: The public comment period was cut in half, from 60 to 30 days.
“In this case, it was determined that we need to move forward in a timely fashion,” said Interior Department spokeswoman Tina Kreisher.
If the proposal should become final by November, a new administration could propose another rule, a process that could take months. Congress could also pass legislation, but that could take even longer.
An aide for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said that panel would hold a hearing on the rule changes when Congress returns in September.
Here is the full text of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) speech on climate change in Portland, Oregon, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of Vestas Wind Technology. Today is a kind of test run for the company. They’ve got wind technicians here, wind studies, and all these wind turbines, but there’s no wind. So now I know why they asked me to come give a speech.
Every day, when there are no reporters and cameras around to draw attention to it, this company and others like it are doing important work. And what we see here is just a glimpse of much bigger things to come. Wind power is one of many alternative energy sources that are changing our economy for the better. And one day they will change our economy forever.
Wind is a clean and predictable source of energy, and about as renewable as anything on earth. Along with solar power, fuel-cell technology, cleaner burning fuels and other new energy sources, wind power will bring America closer to energy independence. Our economy depends upon clean and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels, and so, in many ways, does our security. A large share of the world’s oil reserves is controlled by foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart. And as our reliance on oil passes away, their power will vanish with it.
In the coming weeks I intend to address many of the great challenges that America’s energy policies must meet. When we debate energy bills in Washington, it should be more than a competition among industries for special favors, subsidies, and tax breaks. In the Congress, we need to send the special interests on their way – without their favors and subsidies. We need to draw on the best ideas of both parties, and on all the resources a free market can provide. We need to keep our eyes on big goals in energy policy, the serious dangers, and the common interests of the American people.
Today I’d like to focus on just one of those challenges, and among environmental dangers it is surely the most serious of all. Whether we call it “climate change” or “global warming,” in the end we’re all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we to act meet the challenge, and act quickly.
Some of the most compelling evidence of global warming comes to us from NASA. No longer do we need to rely on guesswork and computer modeling, because satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of glaciers, Antarctic ice shelves and polar ice sheets. And I’ve seen some of this evidence up close. A few years ago I traveled to the area of Svalbard, Norway, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean. I was shown the southernmost point where a glacier had reached twenty years earlier. From there, we had to venture northward up the fjord to see where that same glacier ends today – because all the rest has melted. On a trip to Alaska, I heard about a national park visitor’s center that was built to offer a picture-perfect view of a large glacier. Problem is, the glacier is gone. A work of nature that took ages to form had melted away in a matter of decades.
Our scientists have also seen and measured reduced snowpack, with earlier runoffs in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. We have seen sustained drought in the Southwest, and across the world average temperatures that seem to reach new records every few years. We have seen a higher incidence of extreme weather events. In the frozen wilds of Alaska, the Arctic, Antarctic, and elsewhere, wildlife biologists have noted sudden changes in animal migration patterns, a loss of their habitat, a rise in sea levels. And you would think that if the polar bears, walruses, and sea birds have the good sense to respond to new conditions and new dangers, then humanity can respond as well.
We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.
There are vital measures we can take in the short term, even as we focus on long-term policies to mitigate the effects of global warming. In the years ahead, we are likely to see reduced water supplies … more forest fires than in previous decades … changes in crop production … more heat waves afflicting our cities and a greater intensity in storms. Each one of these consequences of climate change will require policies to protect our citizens, especially those most vulnerable to violent weather. Each one will require new precautions in the repair and construction our roads, bridges, railways, seawalls and other infrastructure. Some state local governments have already begun their planning and preparation for extreme events and other impacts of climate change. The federal government can help them in many ways, above all by coordinating their efforts, and I am committed to providing that support.
To lead in this effort, however, our government must strike at the source of the problem—with reforms that only Congress can enact and the president can sign. We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion. Yet for all the good work of entrepreneurs and inventors in finding cleaner and better technologies, the fundamental incentives of the market are still on the side of carbon-based energy. This has to change before we can make the decisive shift away from fossil fuels.
For the market to do more, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. And we must do this in a way that gives American businesses new incentives and new rewards to seek, instead of just giving them new taxes to pay and new orders to follow. The most direct way to achieve this is through a system that sets clear limits on all greenhouse gases, while also allowing the sale of rights to excess emissions. And this is the proposal I will submit to the Congress if I am elected president—a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy.
As a program under the Clean Air Act, the cap-and-trade system achieved enormous success in ridding the air of acid rain. And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. It is very hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, small businesses and environmentalists all working to the same good purpose. But such cooperation is actually possible in the case of climate change, and this reform will set it in motion.
The people of this country have a genius for adapting, solving problems, and inventing new and better ways to accomplish our goals. But the federal government can’t just summon those talents by command – only the free market can draw them out. A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy. The market will evolve, too, by requiring sensible reductions in greenhouse gases, but also by allowing full flexibility in how industry meets that requirement. Entrepreneurs and firms will know which energy investments they should make. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices. A cap-and-trade reform will also create a profitable opportunity for rural America to receive market-based payments
- instead of government subsidies -for the conservation practices that store carbon in the soils of our nation’s farms.
We will cap emissions according to specific goals, measuring progress by reference to past carbon emissions. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emission … by 2020, a return to 1990 levels … and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the course of time, it may be that new ideas and technologies will come along that we can hardly imagine today, allowing all industries to change with a speed that will surprise us. More likely, however, there will be some companies that need extra emissions rights, and they will be able to buy them. The system to meet these targets and timetables will give these companies extra time to adapt—and that is good economic policy. It is also a matter of simple fairness, because the cap-and-trade system will create jobs, improve livelihoods, and strengthen futures across our country.
The goal in all of this is to assure an energy supply that is safe, secure, diverse, and domestic. And in pursuit of these objectives, we cannot afford to take economic growth and job creation for granted. A strong and growing economy is essential to all of our goals, and especially the goal of finding alternatives to carbon-based technology. We want to turn the American economy toward cleaner and safer energy sources. And you can’t achieve that by imposing costs that the American economy cannot sustain.
As part of my cap-and-trade incentives, I will also propose to include the purchase of offsets from those outside the scope of the trading system. This will broaden the array of rewards for reduced emissions, while also lowering the costs of compliance with our new emissions standards. Through the sale of offsets – and with strict standards to assure that reductions are real – our agricultural sector alone can provide as much as forty percent of the overall reductions we will require in greenhouse gas emissions. And in the short term, farmers and ranchers can do it in some of the most cost-effective ways.
Over time, an increasing fraction of permits for emissions could be supplied by auction, yielding federal revenues that can be put to good use. Under my plan, we will apply these and other federal funds to help build the infrastructure of a post-carbon economy. We will support projects to advance technologies that capture and store carbon emissions. We will assist in transmitting wind- and solar-generated power from states that have them to states that need them. We will add to current federal efforts to develop promising technologies, such as plug-ins, hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and hydrogen-powered cars and trucks. We will also establish clear standards in government-funded research, to make sure that funding is effective and focused on the right goals.
And to create greater demand for the best technologies and practices in energy conservation, we will use the purchasing power of the United States government. Our government can hardly expect citizens and private businesses to adopt or invest in low-carbon technologies when it doesn’t always hold itself to the same standard. We need to set a better example in Washington, by consistently applying the best environmental standards to every purchase our government makes.
As we move toward all of these goals, and over time put the age of fossil fuels behind us, we must consider every alternative source of power, and that includes nuclear power. When our cap-and-trade policy is in place, there will be a sudden and sustained pursuit in the market for new investment opportunities in low-emission fuel sources. And here we have a known, proven energy source that requires exactly zero emissions. We have 104 nuclear reactors in our country, generating about twenty percent of our electricity. These reactors alone spare the atmosphere from about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released every year. That’s the annual equivalent of nearly all emissions from all the cars we drive in America. Europe, for its part, has 197 reactors in operation, and nations including France and Belgium derive more than half their electricity from nuclear power. Those good practices contribute to the more than two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide avoided every year, worldwide, because of nuclear energy. It doesn’t take a leap in logic to conclude that if we want to arrest global warming, then nuclear energy is a powerful ally in that cause.
In a cap-and-trade energy economy, the cost of building new reactors will be less prohibitive. The incentives to invest in a mature, zero-emissions technology will be stronger. New research and innovation will help the industry to overcome the well known drawbacks to nuclear power, such as the transport and storage of waste. And our government can help in these efforts. We can support research to extend the use of existing plants. Above all, we must make certain that every plant in America is safe from the designs of terrorists. And when all of this is assured, it will be time again to expand our use of one of the cleanest, safest, and most reliable sources of energy on earth.
For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction—toward machines, methods, and industries that used oil and gas. Enormous good came from that industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren’t counting, and often hardly noticed. And these terrible costs have added up now, in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and all across the natural world. They are no longer tenable, sustainable, or defensible. And what better way to correct past errors than to turn the creative energies of the free market in the other direction? Under the cap-and-trade system, this can happen. In all its power, the profit motive will suddenly begin to shift and point the other way – toward cleaner fuels, wiser ways, and a healthier planet.
As a nation, we make our own environmental plans and our own resolutions. But working with other nations to arrest climate change can be an even tougher proposition. China, India, and other developing economic powers in particular are among the greatest contributors to global warming today—increasing carbon emissions at a furious pace – and they are not receptive to international standards. Nor do they think that we in the industrialized world are in any position to preach the good news of carbon-emission control. We made most of our contributions to global warming before anyone knew about global warming.
This set of facts and perceived self-interests proved the undoing of the Kyoto Protocols. As president, I will have to deal with the same set of facts. I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach—an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation.
Shared dangers mean shared duties, and global problems require global cooperation. The United States and our friends in Europe cannot alone deal with the threat of global warming. No nation should be exempted from its obligations. And least of all should we make exceptions for the very countries that are accelerating carbon emissions while the rest of us seek to reduce emissions. If we are going to establish meaningful environmental protocols, then they must include the two nations that have the potential to pollute the air faster, and in greater annual volume, than any nation ever in history.
At the same time, we will continue in good faith to negotiate with China and other nations to enact the standards and controls that are in the interest of every nation – whatever their stage of economic development. And America can take the lead in offering these developing nations the low-carbon technologies that we will make and they will need. One good idea or invention to reduce carbon emissions is worth a thousand finely crafted proposals at a conference table. And the governments of these developing economic powers will soon recognize, as America is beginning to do, their urgent need for cleaner-burning fuels and safer sources of energy.
If the efforts to negotiate an international solution that includes China and India do not succeed, we still have an obligation to act.
In my approach to global climate-control efforts, we will apply the principle of equal treatment. We will apply the same environmental standards to industries in China, India, and elsewhere that we apply to our own industries. And if industrializing countries seek an economic advantage by evading those standards, I would work with the European Union and other like-minded governments that plan to address the global warming problem to develop a cost equalization mechanism to apply to those countries that decline to enact a similar cap.
For all of its historical disregard of environmental standards, it cannot have escaped the attention of the Chinese regime that China’s skies are dangerously polluted, its beautiful rivers are dying, its grasslands vanishing, its coastlines receding, and its own glaciers melting. We know many of these signs from our own experience—from environmental lessons learned the hard way. And today, all the world knows that they are the signs of even greater trouble to come. Pressing on blindly with uncontrolled carbon emissions is in no one’s interest, especially China’s. And the rest of the world stands ready to help.
Like other environmental challenges
- only more so -global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. We need to think straight about the dangers ahead, and to meet the problem with all the resources of human ingenuity at our disposal. We Americans like to say that there is no problem we can’t solve, however complicated, and no obstacle we cannot overcome if we meet it together. I believe this about our country. I know this about our country. And now it is time for us to show those qualities once again.
In an interview with Darren Samuelson of E&E News last Thursday, Douglas Holtz-Eakin lays down significant markers for Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) climate policy.On policies such as a low-carbon fuel standard or renewable portfolio standard:
“The basic idea is if you go with a cap and trade and do it right with appropriate implementation, you don’t need technology-specific and sectoral policies that are on the books and that others are proposing simultaneously.”On the rise in CAFE standards in the 2007 energy act:
“He’s not proposing to eliminate those. He simply wants to check as time goes on if they become completely irrelevant. You might want to take them off the books, but we’re not there yet.”On McCain-Lieberman:
“When he introduced that bill, the floor statement was pretty clear that this was an ongoing process. He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”On Lieberman-Warner:
“The Lieberman-Warner is a good bill. It’s not his intention to suggest anything different. . . We don’t take positions on Senate legislation given it will change. He’s going to realistically need to have time to study the bill. It’s premature.”On nuclear subsidies:
“He wants to see the use of nukes. The ultimate policy proposal will be designed to make sure that’s true.”
Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003-2005 and chief economist for President Bush 2001-2002, is the top economic advisor for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
CAMPAIGN 2008: McCain adviser questions Democrats’ push for more than cap and trade (03/21/2008) Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter
John McCain bucks the traditional Republican establishment with his support for cap-and-trade legislation, but the Arizona senator’s presidential campaign is trying to differentiate itself from its Democratic rivals by rejecting calls for additional climate-themed restrictions.
“The basic idea is if you go with a cap and trade and do it right with appropriate implementation, you don’t need technology-specific and sectoral policies that are on the books and that others are proposing simultaneously,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a McCain campaign policy adviser, said in an interview yesterday.
Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, dismissed the presidential campaign platforms of McCain’s two remaining Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Specifically, he questioned the candidates’ calls for a new federal low carbon fuel limit, stronger fuel economy standards and policies to reduce U.S. oil consumption.
Cap and trade, Holtz-Eakin said, is the ideal solution by itself. “You don’t need redundant policies that interfere with the flexibility that is the key to meeting these desirable goals at low costs,” he said.
Asked if this position meant McCain would block implementation of new corporate average fuel economy requirements that President Bush signed into law last December, Holtz-Eakin replied, “He’s not proposing to eliminate those. He simply wants to check as time goes on if they become completely irrelevant. You might want to take them off the books, but we’re not there yet.”
Both Clinton and Obama support setting up a mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce U.S. heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by midcentury. They are also identical in backing a 100 percent auction of the emission credits.
Unlike McCain, the two Democratic candidates would push their climate regulations beyond cap and trade.
Clinton, for example, would increase fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030 and cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels. Obama says he would double fuel economy standards within 18 years and supports a federal low carbon fuel standard requiring suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by 10 percent by 2020.
Campaign aides for both Clinton and Obama did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment about the McCain adviser’s efforts to contrast the candidates.
But their surrogates did defend the push for even broader climate policies beyond cap and trade during a panel discussion last week in Santa Barbara, Calif., hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
“He appreciates the problem of climate change is unlike anything we’ve ever faced before,” Obama climate adviser Jason Grumet said. “It’s going to require a kind of social commitment along the lines we’ve not seen in this country since World War II.”
Added Gene Sperling, a Clinton adviser, “It can’t be an all-or-nothing proposition. Senator Clinton has a lot of proposals about what you can do as the executive from day one going forward.”
No position on Lieberman-Warner
McCain also is not wedded to the cap-and-trade bill he introduced in January 2007 with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that seeks to cut U.S. emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. “When he introduced that bill, the floor statement was pretty clear that this was an ongoing process,” Holtz-Eakin said. “He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”
Several climate proposals have been introduced in Congress since Lieberman and McCain teamed up, including a more stringent Lieberman proposal that includes Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) as the lead co-sponsor. “The Lieberman-Warner is a good bill,” Holtz-Eakin said of the legislation due on the Senate floor this June. “It’s not his intention to suggest anything different.”
But Holtz-Eakin said that does not mean McCain will be a guaranteed “yes” vote.
“We don’t take positions on Senate legislation given it will change,” he said. “He’s going to realistically need to have time to study the bill. It’s premature.”
Turning to some cap-and-trade specifics, McCain does have concerns about the idea of using a complete 100 percent auction for emission credits. While McCain’s views remain static on the topic, Holtz-Eakin said the Arizona Republican wants to make sure allowance distribution takes into account international competition for U.S. businesses and also how to distribute costs across the economy.
McCain also continues to support growth in nuclear power. Pressed to explain what beyond a cap-and-trade program would be needed, Holtz-Eakin replied, “He wants to see the use of nukes. The ultimate policy proposal will be designed to make sure that’s true.”
McCain is planning several environmentally themed speeches later this year as the general election campaign picks up steam—though no firm dates have been set.
The four-term senator also is trying to brandish his foreign policy credentials this week with visits to Iraq, Israel and Europe.
McCain, Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) visited British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London yesterday to talk about a number of issues, including international climate negotiations aimed at getting a new treaty that can succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
“I am convinced that if we work at it, we will be able to convince India and China that it is in their interest to be part of a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” McCain told reporters outside Brown’s 10 Downing Street office. “I believe that we can achieve a global agreement.”
Keeping the focus on climate negotiations, McCain also visited with Stavros Dimas, the top European Commission climate official. And echoing aides to Obama and Clinton, Holtz-Eakin acknowledged that McCain is considering sending staff to the annual U.N. climate conference this December in Poznan, Poland, if he wins the election.
“We have certainly contemplated it,” Holtz-Eakin said.
Climate negotiators have given themselves a 2009 deadline for completing a new post-Kyoto agreement—a schedule some see as difficult to meet given the time it will take for a new U.S. president to get his or her staff and policies in place.
Asked to comment on the post-Kyoto deadline, Holtz-Eakin replied, “Saying anything very definitive about meeting a target that is 11 months into the first term when you don’t have any control in between is really hard. We’ll certainly be interested in moving this process forward as quick as possible.”
Following the one-vote failure on Wednesday of S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140, the Senate stimulus package that contained $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing the vote.
Today, Executive Director Carl Pope blistered the office response to member calls in a blog post entitled John McCain Should Be Ashamed.
Immediately, people begin calling and emailing me, saying, “The Senator’s office says he voted for clean energy, and that your alert is wrong.” We check. He didn’t. We call his office. Stunningly, his staff has been coached to mislead callers. “That’s not true at all,” they say, “he voted for the bill yesterday.” Well, he voted, yesterday, but for a different bill. However we phrase the question, we get a lie. “No, if he had voted for the bill, it would not have passed. That was purely procedural.” But McCain’s staff knows that if cloture had been invoked, passage of the bill would then only require 51 votes, and the bill with clean energy would have passed. [Ed.- emphasis added.]