Climate Change and the 2016 Presidential Election

by Jesse Jennings

In the 2016 race for the White House, Republican candidates were tilting farther right on the issue of global warming, while the left-wing candidates are promising stronger mandates on carbon emissions. Although there is no consensus when it comes to climate change and it’s legitimacy, right-winged voters agree that climate change should not be a top priority of government officials—recent poll data show that a mere 3% of GOP primary voters think global warming should be on the agenda. Thirty percent of Democrat voters and 11% of swing voters think it should be a priority. Climate change seems to be more of a political pawn which either could hurt or help a nominee’s campaign, dependent on party. Standing in the middle could be more detrimental as Mike McKenna (R), an energy and environmental lobbyist, warns that “staying in one place”—either wholly believing or wholly denying climate change—will prevent political damage to yourself. But whether or not they believe in climate change and it’s place on the agenda, both parties are using it to gain votes in upcoming elections.

Marco Rubio (R) was quick to hush allegations that he supports any government mandates of carbon emissions as videos emerged of him supporting cap-and-trade programs in Florida. Cap-and-trade programs are implemented to set limits on carbon emissions while creating a market for carbon allowances. But it’s not just Rubio clashing with scientists who share the broad consensus that the Earth’s rising temperature have to due with human activity. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz find themselves even farther right denying global warming altogether. But it was only after President Barrack Obama began addressing global warming as an issue that Republicans turned sharply to the right, proving climate change is used more as a political pawn than an issue to be addressed based on fact.

On the other side of the party line, Democratic nominees seemed to agree that global warming poses an imminent threat to generations to come, as Hillary Clinton promises greater mandates on carbon emissions and programs to help the movement to greener alternatives.

Harder, A., Reinhard, B., 2015. Republican presidential field tilts rightward on climate change. Wall Street Journal.

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