Can we please spend 9 of the debate’s 90 minutes on climate change?
Chances are we won’t hear a question from moderator Elaine Quijano about climate change tonight. Such questions just don’t make for good television, we’ve been told. Just as voters don’t put climate change high up their priority list. But we can still hope, right?
We all know where Donald Trump stands on climate change: It’s a hoax.
His running mate Mike Pence, once a hard-nosed denier, has more recently mumbled his way into something slightly fuzzier. But what he says now isn’t all that different.
Back in 2001, Pence wrote an op-ed in which he said:
Global warming is a myth. The global warming treaty is a disaster. There, I said it. […]
Here’s the deal. Environmentalists claim that certain ‘greenhouse gases’ like carbon dioxide are mucking up the atmosphere and causing the earth to gradually warm. Despite the fact that CO2 is a naturally occurring phenomenon in nature, the Greenpeace folks want to blame it all on coal (another natural mineral) and certain (evil) coal burning power plants. The theory is; get rid of the (evil) coal burning plants and we save the planet from imminent doom.
Natalie Schreyer at Mother Jones recently wrote that in an interview with Chuck Todd in 2014:
…Pence said he doesn’t know if man-made climate change “is a resolved issue in science today” and later added, “We’ll leave the scientific debates for the future.”
In fact, while the details are still unfolding, the debate about whether humans are causing global warming is over, with scientists nearly unanimous in declaring that we are doing so.
As for policy, Pence is pro-coal and one of the Republican governors who opposes President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut power plants’ greenhouse emissions, now tied up in litigation.
Surely that opens the door for a question that could spark some good television.
As for Tim Kaine, he like Hillary Clinton, has a mixed record of statements and positions on the matter, and environmental advocates thus give them a mixed report card. They certainly are not climate hawks. But neither of them has ever been a climate change denier, either. And both support policies that could alleviate or ameliorate some of the worst impacts from changes in the climate.
A question for Kaine could directly ask for some nuance about his views of the Democratic Party Platform, which throughout mentions climate, climate change and climate justice 44 times, and includes 13 paragraphs that begin with these two:
Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods. The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action across our economy to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.
Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge; creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs; reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050; and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters. Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.
What specific policies does Tim Kaine favor to meet the “urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time”? Has he changed his mind about hydraulic fracturing and off-shore drilling? Does he have proposals for reducing the heavy greenhouse-gas emissions of factory agriculture?
Could at least part of tonight’s vice presidential debate be more about policy regarding the greatest planetary crisis since modern humans emerged from Africa and less about personality and the potential for producing gaffes that could be hammered by the opposition afterward? Is that really too much to ask?
(Originally appeared at Dailykos.)