John Edwards Talks Science and Global Warming

With universal health care and the Iraq war dominating presidential news headlines in the last few months, it's been tough going trying to dredge up any meaningful coverage of the presidential candidates' differing stances on science and climate change (and coverage of Al Gore's ongoing campaign against global warming doesn't count, yet). What tidbits you may have heard or read, including Hillary Clinton's introduction of the Zero Emissions Building Act and Chris Dodd's vocal support for a carbon tax, have been few and far between. So far only the League of Conservation Voters has really stepped up to the plate with its "The Heat Is On" campaign, which provides detailed profiles of each candidate's position on climate change and related issues.

Leave it to the blogosphere to offer up one of the first, full-fledged interviews with a leading presidential candidate on science and climate change. Democratic hopeful and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards took some time out of his busy campaign schedule to answer a few questions by e-mail for Coturnix, the blogger behind ScienceBlogs' "A Blog Around the Clock."Besides for reiterating his support for carbon emissions reductions (20% decrease by 2020 and 80% decrease by 2050, if you must know) and more funding for research in climate science, Edwards took the bold step of outlining a refreshingly specific, fairly ambitious plan of how his administration would deal with global warming. Here are some of the key excerpts from his answer:

"Our first priority is capping and reducing greenhouse gas pollution. We must do what the consensus of the scientific community says is necessary to stop the Earth from getting more than 2 degrees warmer.

...

What the scientific community says today is - taking into account what's going on in the developing world --- the U.S. needs to reduce our global greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. As president, I will enact a national cap on carbon emissions that meets that goal.

In terms of how we get there, we need to invest in renewable energies like wind, solar, and biofuels. And we have to raise the fuel-efficiency standards significantly in this country. I believe the number is 40 miles per gallon by 2016. That would single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day.

We must lead the world to a new climate treaty that commits other countries--including developing nations--to reduce their pollution. I will insist that developing countries join us in this effort, by offering to share new clean energy technology and, if necessary, using trade agreements to require binding greenhouse reductions.

I will create a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off greenhouse pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies. The fund will support U.S. research and development in energy technology, help entrepreneurs start new businesses, invest in new carbon-capture and efficient automobile technology and help Americans conserve energy. Finally, we must reduce the demand for more electricity through efficiency for the next decade, instead of producing more electricity."

He answered a few other questions on the topics of NASA's space program, healthcare (of course), the farm bill and government subsidies, political meddling in science and the current brain-drain in higher education. While we have some reservations about his positions on renewable energy (particularly his support for corn-based ethanol) and would like to see him go further on others (higher fuel emissions standards, please), on the whole his plan is fairly sound and a promising step forward in taking on climate change and other pressing scientific issues.

Any candidate's stance on climate change (on either side) captured your fancy yet? Or is it all too little, too late? Feel free to share with us in the comments.

Via ::A Blog Around The Clock: Exclusive: Interview with Senator John Edwards on Science-Related Topics (blog), ::The Scientific Activist: Interview With John Edwards at A Blog Around the Clock (blog)

See also: ::Voting For Coal

Best of TreeHugger