If you think something absolutely has to be done about climate change and other environmental worries, Donald Trump isn’t the presidential candidate for you.
You probably knew that already, but the deeo differences in the presidential campaign come through loud and clear in three candidates’ responses to a 20-question policy quiz drawn up by Science Debate.
The questions address topics ranging from biodiversity to space exploration, and touch on hot-button issues such as vaccination and opioid abuse. Trump, the GOP candidate, provided statements addressing all the questions, as did Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Libertarian Gary Johnson hasn’t responded as of this week.
For the most part, the responses track what you’d expect from the candidates (or, more likely, from their campaigns): Clinton provided the longest answers, Trump gave one-paragraph replies, and Stein furnished point-by-point policy proposals.
Environmental issues revealed the most divergence: For Clinton, climate change is “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.” For Stein, it’s “the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced.” They both lay out targets for boosting clean energy, increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
In contrast, Trump says there’s “still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.'” (Yes, in quotes.) He says a better use of financial resources might be to ensure every person in the world has clean water, is free from diseases such as malaria and has ample food.
Clinton and Stein call for further measures to protect biodiversity, while Trump complains about “agencies filled with unelected officials who have been writing rules and regulations that cater to special interests.” Clinton and Stein want to spur federal investment in agriculture, while Trump says “the agriculture industry should be free to seek its best solutions through the market system.”
Clinton and Trump do agree on some issues. For example, both say nuclear power should be part of the mix to address America’s energy needs. In contrast, Stein says nuclear fission technology is “unsafe, expensive and dirty,” and should be phased out over the next decade.
All three favor upgrades to America’s water systems – which became an issue due to the Flint water crisis in Michigan.
When asked about their policies on internet infrastructure, Clinton vows to build on President Barack Obama’s policies on cybersecurity and innovation. Trump says any cyberattacks should draw “at a minimum, a proportional response.” Stein wants to see a global treaty banning cyberwarfare, and a new U.N. agency tasked with identifying the sources of cyberattacks. She also makes more of a pitch for net neutrality.
In the past, Stein has come in for some grief for voicing concern about vaccine safety. She doesn’t take an anti-vaxxer stance in her Science Debate statement, but she does call for “removing corporate influence from our regulatory agencies to eliminate apparent conflicts of interest” and build up trust among hesitant parents.
Space exploration is one area in which Trump makes a stronger pitch than he has in the past. Last year, he suggested that fixing potholes on Earth was a bigger issue than supporting the space effort. In his Science Debate statement, he says “observation from space and exploring beyond our own space neighborhood should be priorities.”
Science Debate (a.k.a. ScienceDebate.org) is a grassroots effort aimed at raising the profile of science and technology issues in the policy debate. This is the third presidential election cycle in which candidates have responsed to the organization’s 20-question quiz.
During each cycle, the group also urges candidates to engage in a special debate focusing on science, technology, health, medicine and the environment. That plea went nowhere in the past, and it isn’t likely to go anywhere this year. Instead, we may see a couple of science-related questions come up during the agreed-upon presidential debates that are scheduled on Sept. 26 and Oct. 9 – if we’re lucky.