Donald Trump

Candidates and Climate: Where Presidential Hopefuls Stand on the Environment

The issue of global warming has rearely come up in stump speeches or during debates, especially on the Republican side

In the heat of the presidential race, climate change has mostly received a cold shoulder from candidates. 

While as much as 70 percent of Americans believe climate change is real and that humans are contributing to it, according to a Monmouth University poll from January, the issue of global warming has rarely come up in stump speeches or during debates, especially on the Republican side. 

NBC has reached out to all the campaigns for information on their positions but has not heard back. The candidates, however, have outlined their positions in interviews and town hall events. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have listed their plans for tackling the crisis on campaign websites. 

Clinton and Sanders have pledged to continue President Obama’s climate agenda if elected to office, but the Republican candidates are far from on board. 

Here’s a rundown of what each presidential candidate thinks of climate change:

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is one of the most vocal of all presidential candidates on climate change. On his campaign site, the senior Vermont senator outlines a complete policy platform on reducing carbon emissions, decreasing fossil fuel subsidies and revamping environmental policies regarding public health.

He frequently discusses “big oil companies” on the campaign trail and argues their profits are costing the public.

During a February rally in Minnesota, Sanders discussed how, unlike his Republican counterparts, he will “not reject science.”

“Climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already doing devastating harm in our country and all over the world,” Sanders said.

In an interview with the LA Times' editorial board, Sanders reiterated his comprehensive policy on global warming.  

"It is absolutely an international crisis, and the United States can’t do it alone," he said. "But we can lead the world by example and by influence. I happen to believe, I was asked in one debate, what’s the major foreign policy crisis that we face — is it North Korea? And I said, climate change... We have got to be extremely aggressive in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. I have comprehensive legislation that does that. It is the most comprehensive anti-climate change legislation in the history of the United States Senate. It calls for, among other things, a tax on carbon."

Hillary Clinton

Clinton also uses her campaign website to outline her environmental policy. Her goals include increasing the use of solar panels in the United States and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Univision Democratic Presidential Debate, Clinton emphasized the importance of action and preventive measures on global warming.

“We do have to invest in resilience and mitigation while we are trying to make up for the fact that this is clearly man-made and man-aggregated,” she said.

At a rally in Iowa, Clinton responded to the views of her Republican counterparts — who are skeptical of the science behind climate change — urging them to "go talk to a scientist." She also noted her view that implementing environmental plans for renewable energy would benefit the economy.

"There are millions of new jobs and businesses in moving from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy," she said. 

Clinton supports Obama’s efforts to strengthen environmental regulation and sees it essential for Americans to recognize the severity of climate change, according to MSNBC.

“We have to actually convince more Americans that this is in their interest,” she said to Annie Karni of Politico. “You know, whatever it takes. I happen to think it’s a real threat. I think the science is pretty clear.”

Donald Trump

The GOP front-runner has been asked questions on global warming in various interviews, but does not include climate change on his campaign's list of positions.

In tweets between 2012 and early 2015, he called climate change a “con job,” a “canard,” a “hoax,” “bulls---,” and a concept “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive," according to MSNBC. 

Once he announced his candidacy, Trump somewhat softened his language. In September, he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in a phone interview that global warming may exist, but is not the biggest issue the U.S. faces.

“I consider climate change to be not one of our big problems,” Trump said at the time. 

In another “Morning Joe” appearance in November 2015, Trump reiterated his view, but also noted the importance of protecting the environment.

“I want to make sure we have clean air and we have clean water,” he said. “That’s what my thing on climate change is. We want to have clean air to breathe and we want to have beautiful clean water. That’s very important to me.”

Most recently, however, in an interview with the Washington Post editorial board, Trump was asked point-blank whether he believed climate change existed. 

"I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change," he answered in March. "I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes — if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using 'extreme weather' I guess more than any other phrase. I am not — I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room — but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change."

Ted Cruz

Texas Sen. Cruz has been consistently at odds with widely accepted beliefs that global warming is real. A committee member of the Senate Science Subcommittee, the GOP candidate held a climate science hearing in December to discuss global warming with experts. In his opening statement, the senator said there is strong data and evidence that indicates global warming is not as bad as what “global alarmists” say it is.

“Facts matter, science matters, data matters,” Cruz said. “According to the satellite data, there has been no significant global warming for the past 18 years. The global warming alarmists don’t like these data.”

At a New Hampshire speech in January, Cruz expressed his skepticism again, saying, “Climate change is the perfect pseudo-scientific theory, because it can never ever be disproven.”

Cruz is the only candidate who considers himself a full-fledged skeptic, believing that data showing proof of climate change and global warming is in fact false. Cruz recognizes it’s good to be environmentally friendly but believes change should come from the private sector, not the government.

John Kasich

According to public statements he's made, Ohio Gov. John Kasich believes humans do play a role in the changing climate. But he is against certain environmental policy changes, like alternative energy sources that may cost more or replace coal-based jobs.

At the CNN GOP debate in March, Kasich was asked about his views on environmental policy and climate change. He said it is important to use and develop efficient forms of energy, like wind and solar, but at the same time maintain jobs.

“We want all the sources of energy,” he said. “We want to dig coal but we want to clean it when we burn it.”

At an Iowa town hall in October, Kasich affirmed his view that climate change does exist. But, like Trump, Kasich said he does not see global warming as priority.

“I just don’t know enough about it,” Kasich said. “I don’t know what’s scientifically proven. I think there are things we can do to protect the environment. We should. But we shouldn’t worship the environment.”

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