Too Little, Too Late? McCain v. Obama on Global Warming
photo: Andrew Davies
I fear I may have poisoned my objectivity on this one after a recent post I did on Sarah Palin and her views on the cause of global warming; there's no getting around that Gov. Palin's viewpoint is at odds with what I consider to be good policy and sound science. Palin's views aside though, the good thing about both Barack Obama and John McCain is the both have indicated that they will take action to combat global warming: Which is reassuring considering a number of sobering statements made towards the end of the summer about the state of arctic climate change.
As the 2008 presidential race comes into the home stretch, I imagine fewer and fewer people, especially those for whom environmental issues are of top importance, are on the fence between the two major candidates. But for those who still have to make up their minds, and recognizing that energy policy and climate change policy are necessarily be intertwined (only being separated in these posts for the sake of editorial cleanliness), here are John McCain's and Barack Obama's viewpoints on global warming:
photo: Tom LeGro/NewsHour
John McCain on Global Warming
The bottom line stat of any proposed climate change policy is really what sort of carbon emission reduction is proposed. In John McCain's campaign literature he outlines different reduction levels to be reached: By 2012, emissions would be reduced to 2005 levels; by 2020 emissions would be reduced to 1990 levels (which are 15% below 2005 levels); by 2030 emissions would by 34% below 2005 levels; and by 2050 emissions would be reduced 66% from 2005 levels.
The prime mechanism for managing carbon emissions under McCain policy would be a cap-and-trade system. In a debate in Florida at the beginning of the year McCain elaborated on this,
India and China Must Be Included in Cap-and-Trade
I am in favor of cap-and-trade. [...] They're doing it in Europe now, although not very well. You can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions; you earn a credit. Somebody else is going to increase theirs; you can sell it to them. Meanwhile we have a gradual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We need a global agreement, but it has to include India and China. [...] ...Climate change is real. It can effect states like Florida dramatically because it has to do with violent weather changes. (On the Issues)
When the League of Conservation Voters asked John McCain if he would reengage the US in international negotiations to produce a global agreement to prevent the worst of global warming, this was his response:
US Must Lead Global Climate Change Action
Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. This problem cannot be solved by the United States alone, nor can it be solved without our leadership. The world has always looked to American leadership on the most pressing international issues of the day; and it has always been in America's national interest to lead where our interests and values are at stake.
A responsible international effort is essential if the serious problem of global climate change is to be tackled properly and without placing an unfair burden on our country. This will require leadership by the United States, and as President, I will see that we provide it.
Such an agreement must set environmentally sound goals and employ flexible, market-based mechanisms to achieve wise objectives cost-effectively. Both the targets and the means of achieving them must be based on common sense, sound science, fairness, and a commitment to the responsible stewardship of the global climate and our prosperity.
Finally, our domestic and international policies on climate change must recognize not only the serious risks posed by the lack of sufficient action, but the environmental, economic, and national security benefits we can enjoy by getting it right. As President, I'll see that that we do. (On the Record)
When John McCain sat down with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register back in December of 2007, he addressed (albeit it a fairly sweeping way) his views on climate change, as well as other energy and environment issues:
Free Market Mechanisms Will Work to Reduce Climate Change
Quoting former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, John McCain concludes by asking, "Suppose we are wrong and there's no such thing as climate change, and we adopt green technologies, all we have done is give our children a cleaner world. Suppose we are right about climate change and do nothing. Then what have we done for our kids?"
Time Is Not On Our Side
Back in May of this year, McCain went into greater detail about his commitment to climate change in a speech at a wind turbine facility in Oregon. From the New York Times transcript:
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.
...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 gases are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gases, 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.
Palin v McCain on Global Warming
The second half of this statement makes it clear that John McCain and Sarah Palin differ fundamentally on the issue of climate change. Earlier in the week in a television interview and just last night in the vice-presidential debate, Palin reiterated her belief that global warming is not man-made. In the CBS interview she even went so far as to say that it "kind of doesn't matter" if global warming is caused by human actions, but added that action was nonetheless needed.