By John Parnell
With the Republican and Democrat conventions almost behind us, US Presidential Election candidates took part in an online debate on science this week with climate change and energy featuring prominently.
Looking at their answers reveals key differences (and similarities) between the two candidate’s positions and offers some clues as to what the world can expect from the US after the 2012 election.
While President Obama spoke a good game on climate change in the build-up to the 2008 election, ultimately he hasn’t pushed the country’s stance forward significantly.
Some commentators in the US have said that the recently released Democratic National Platform 2012, effectively his manifesto, has a softer take on climate change than the one that got him elected.
Mitt Romney has been accused of “flip-flopping” on climate change. His Massachusetts climate plan from 2004 during his tenure as governor there is certainly a departure from his stance during the Republican primaries when he distanced himself significantly.
Now he has come back to the fold, albeit slightly.
“Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.
“We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem.”
“I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences.
“The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming…the primary effect of unilateral action by the US to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas.”
The candidates have more in common with their energy policies. Both want more drilling onshore and offshore including off the coast f Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. The main difference is the scale and speed of this expansion. Both ultimately support the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama is just advocating a more rigorous approvals process.
The key difference is perhaps that Obama is in favour of continuing support to develop renewable energy whereas Romney has pledged energy independence for the US by 2020 through domestic fossil fuel resources.
“[I support]… the safe, responsible development of America’s near 100-year supply of natural gas that will help support more than 600,000 jobs.
“Part of our strategy is also to use the natural resources we have more efficiently, so we are less reliant on other countries in the first place.
“I know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century.
“I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources – including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels – while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
“A crucial component of my plan for a stronger middle class is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020.
“The key is to embrace these resources and open access to them.
“I will pursue a course that designs regulation not to stifle energy production but instead to facilitate responsible use of all energy sources
“I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries.
“I remain committed to implementing and enforcing strong environmental protections that ensure all energy development activity is conducted in a safe and responsible manner.”
The debate was hosted by ScienceDebate.org.