The Four Candidates on Climate: the Basics

Just about one year ago, on October 16th, 2015, in Keene, New Hampshire, at a public town hall meeting attended by hundreds, Hillary Clinton had this to say about the notorious Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC:

“If we’re going to have a national commitment to do something about climate change, FERC needs to be part of that commitment. And that’s my view on how we have to alter a lot of parts of the Federal Government. You know, it’s not just the EPA that needs to be focused on combating climate change, every part of the Federal Government needs to be focused. I want to have, by the end of my first term, a half a billion more solar panels installed and by the end of my second term enough clean, renewable energy to power every home in America. And if those are our goals, then it’s important that we don’t have the right hand doing something different than the left hand.”

Hillary Clinton and Al Gore’s joint appearance in Miami, Florida two days ago, where they each spoke eloquently about the need for action on climate, brought back memories of this unexpected statement of Clinton’s a year ago. As far as I know, she hasn’t talked about FERC ever since, but this one time that she did, her statement was a good one.

She has talked a lot about a half billion more solar panels installed and enough renewable energy to power every US home, and that is a good thing. The two other main goals she has put forward in the area of the climate crisis are:

“–Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

“–Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, trucks, ships and boilers.”

There’s more, including a specific 10-point plan at her website.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s approach is different, more visionary and, at the same time, more realistic, given the deep hole that the world is in. The first points in her overall “Power to the People Plan” and her more detailed platform is a call for a Green New Deal, with a timetable that is consistent with what the science is telling us about the urgency of the crisis:

“Enact an emergency Green New Deal to turn the tide on climate change, revive the economy and make wars for oil obsolete. Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.”

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is worse than both Stein and Clinton, and not too much better than climate denier Donald Trump. The main thing he says at his website is that “the federal government should prevent future harm [from climate change] by focusing on regulations that protect us from real harm, rather than needlessly costing American jobs and freedom in order to pursue a political agenda,” which doesn’t tell us much. He does say that he is OK with the EPA doing its thing “when focused on its true mission.”

Elsewhere he has taken these positions: no tax subsidies for wind energy; yes to fracking “with oversight,” which puts him in the Hillary camp on fracking; expand offshore drilling; deregulate the energy sector because “government should not do anything to try to mitigate warming;” and yes to new coal and nuclear plants. Yikes!

Republican Donald Trump takes the kind of positions you would expect he would take, the main points of which are:

Make America energy independent; declare American [fossil fuel] energy dominance a strategic foreign policy goal; unleash untapped shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal; move ahead with offshore and onshore [fossil fuel] leasing on federal lands; and rescind Obama executive actions on energy.

Without question, the election of Donald Trump would be an absolutely disastrous setback for the world’s uneven and halting, but important, efforts to shift from fossil fuels to renewables. The climate and climate justice movements, as well as almost every other progressive movement, would be constantly on the defensive just at a time when it is essential that we dramatically ramp up the developing momentum on climate that we have seen over the last 4-5 years. This is the decade when we have to make a shift to renewables and efficiency both irreversible and rapidly accelerating.

Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders both get it on the urgency of the issue and have positions accordingly, but unfortunately, Bernie lost a close primary fight to Clinton, and Stein has zero chance of winning; she is currently at 2.1% of the vote in the average of the major national polls.

National Presidential elections in the USA are hard. That’s why Bernie’s campaign was such a breath of fresh air. It was massive, it won victory after victory, Bernie was very strong on climate and the vast majority of other issues, and his campaign gave hope to tens of millions of us. But he didn’t win, so now we’ll each need to make our choices on election day.

From the standpoint of the climate, there is no question that Hillary is the person who must win, since the only other practical possibility is Trump. Her victory can mean that a growing grassroots climate movement, aligned with the organized outgrowths of the Bernie movement, hopefully the Greens, progressive Democrats elected to Congress who are clear that we need to get off all fossil fuels, oil, coal, and gas, as soon as possible, others—all of us together can make it impossible for a Clinton Administration to do other than to take consistently strong actions on this most urgent and overarching of issues.

Ted Glick has been a climate activist since 2003 and a progressive activist since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at, and he can be followed on Twitter at