Presidential Election 2020: Key Climate Issues And Where The Candidates Stand

According to a 2019 poll from the Pew Research Center, approximately 57% of Americans see climate change as a major threat. As such, climate change has been a frequent and hot topic of debates this election cycle, with most candidates developing comprehensive climate plans as part of their overall platforms. Our planet needs our vote in 2020, and below are some of the key issues related to climate change the candidates are discussing. Find out where candidates’s stand on these issues!

Green New Deal

A major topic of this campaign season is whether or not candidates support and or endorse the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a resolution that was brought to Congress in the summer of 2019 by Representative Alexandria Cortex (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). Broadly, the Green New Deal is a plan to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also addressing economic inequality. The resolution lays out a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 around the world. Parts of the plan include how to transition the U.S. to 100% renewable energy, how to ensure clean air and clean water especially to vulnerable communities and how to boost the economy and job market with jobs in the clean energy and power sector. The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution, which means that even if the resolution does pass in Congress, no action is required. The resolution would require enforcement mechanisms to be set up after it passes.

Carbon Price Or Carbon Tax

A carbon price or tax would put a fee on big emitters of carbon and other greenhouse gasses. With a carbon price or tax a threshold would be set up with allowable limits of carbon emissions for businesses. If a business’s emissions exceeding the agreed upon limits, the business would pay a tax or fee, thus putting a price on carbon emissions.

Timeline To Net-Zero Emissions

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set 2050 as the deadline to achieve net-zero emissions around the world. Achieving net-zero carbon emissions means we would recapture as much carbon and other greenhouse gasses like methane as we emit, ending up with net zero emissions. Many candidates have included a timeline to reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. as part of their climate plans, as well as strategies on how to achieve net-zero emissions.

Chart 2020 Presidential Candidates and Climate Change

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels come up in almost all candidate climate plans. Three of the main topics of discussion around fossil fuels are fracking, fossil fuel subsidies and the use of public lands for the production of fossil fuels. Fracking is a technique to extract fossil fuels like oil and natural gas that uses high powered water pressure. Fracking uses a lot of water and carries environmental risks like water and land pollution. Another issue with fossil fuels is whether fossil fuels should continue to be produced on public lands, currently a large portion of fossil fuel production does occur on federal lands. Finally, fossil fuels are heavily subsidized by the federal government, and whether to continue these subsidies is a topic of debate this election season.   

Nuclear Energy

The production of nuclear energy creates very few greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, nuclear energy is frequently a topic of conversation when discussion pathways to achieve net-zero emissions. However, nuclear energy comes with some risks that concern some presidential candidates. Nuclear energy can pose safety and environmental risks, and there are concerns over how to safely store nuclear waste. In addition, building new nuclear facilities is very expensive.  

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