Party Platforms Vastly DIfferent on Climate Change
It’s no surprise that the 2016 Republican and Democratic Party Platforms differ in their discussion of climate change and energy. In fact, they are near polar opposites, but does it really matter?
As it turns out, a comprehensive analysis of the two party platforms shows that legislators closely adhere to the policy statements outlined in their respective platforms, according to Phil McKenna, reporting on the study for Inside Climate News. McKenna’s article is titled “GOP and Democratic Platforms Highlight Stark Differences on Energy and Climate.”
“Lee Payne, an associate professor at Stephen F. Austin State University analyzed every party platform from 1980 to 2004 and compared the policy positions to subsequent votes taken in the House and Senate. He found Democrats and Republicans voted in support of those positions 82 percent of the time,” reported McKenna.
“[The platform] does matter,” Payne said. “People get what they vote for.”
McKenna made the chart below to show the marked difference in positions between the parties.
At one time in our history, the two parties were not so disparate, but now it is important to vote for the platform as well as the candidate that most closely represents your viewpoint on any number of critical issues.
Bill McKibben’s Response to Political Party Platforms
After the first round of platform negotiations, Bill McKibben described the emerging Democratic Platform process and product as follows:
To some, the point of the whole exercise is unclear. Platforms don’t matter, right? But this is a new kind of election: The Sanders campaign has been about issues, issues, issues. I mean, the guy gives 90-minute speeches every day that are entirely about actual things that need to change. It seems weird in an American political context, which is normally about posturing and spin, but for many of us it’s refreshing.
To others, pushing for a strong platform seems risky. Won’t it somehow help Donald Trump if we keep airing these questions? Shouldn’t we just shut up and fall in line behind Hillary?
No one wants Trump to win. But many of us look at the Brexit vote and see that unenthusiastic centrism has a hard time beating zealous craziness. We need unions and working people and environmentalists fully engaged this time around, backing the Democrats with passion and energy. Above all we need young people, who voted for Bernie by a 7-to-1 proportion.
Which is why we need not platitudes but a platform. Not aspirations but commitments. Not happy talk, but the fully adult conversation that Sanders engaged the country in for the past year. Cornel West, with his usual succinct eloquence, said that in the end the platform debate came down to telling the truth. The truth is, we’re in a world of hurt. That hurt—economic, social, environmental—is driving the unsettling politics of our moment. That hurt needs to be addressed.
Orlando and Philly are the two places left where that can happen; I’m willing to bet the platform will get substantially stronger before all is said and done, because I think the Sanders run really has changed the party, and very much for the better.
Read more of Bill Mckibben’s thoughts in his June 27 essay, “The Clinton Campaign Is Obstructing Change to the Democratic Platform.”
Full Text of Party Platforms
Both 2016 party platforms are now published in their final forms and available online. You may read the entire Democratic and Republican 2016 Party Platforms or read on for an overview and excerpts from sections relevant to climate change.
Overview of the Democratic Platform on Climate Change
The Democratic platform identifies climate change as the defining challenge of our time calling for immediate action for the sake of our children. But it also links action to the creation of good-paying middle class jobs as we transition to clean energy by mid-century.The Democratic Platform addresses climate change succinctly in the preamble, identifying the urgency to act and the direction forward.
The section titled Building a Clean Energy Economy offers a blueprint for improving building efficiency, renewable energy for heating and cooling, fuel efficiency for vehicles along with more electric cars, and more emphasis on transit. The platform devotes a sub-section to “Securing Environmental and Climate Justice for all” and specifically names the importance of “Protecting Our Public Lands and Waters” by expanding our park system free from drilling and mining, opposing drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic coast, and strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency.
Finally, the Platform states that climate change poses grave threats to our national security unless we take a strong leadership role by fulfilling our Paris commitments.
Excerpts Pertaining to Climate Change and Energy
From the Preamble: Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
From Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice
Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred this century. While Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more. Cities from Miami to Baltimore are already threatened by rising seas. California and the West have suffered years of brutal drought. Alaska has been scorched by wildfire. New York has been battered by superstorms, and Texas swamped by flash floods.
The best science tells us that without ambitious, immediate action across our economy to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, all of these impacts will be far worse in the future. We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged.
Democrats share a deep commitment to tackling the climate challenge, creating millions of good-paying middle class jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, and meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century. We will take bold steps to slash carbon pollution and protect clean air at home, lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters.
Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs. We can and we will do both.
Building a Clean Energy Economy
We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. We will cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices through energy efficient improvements; modernize our electric grid; and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. These efforts will create millions of new jobs and save families and businesses money on their monthly energy bills.
We will transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, vehicle electrification increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks. We will make new investments in public transportation and build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas.
Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.
Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.
Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now. Democrats are committed to defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel 28 economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards. We are also committed to expanding clean energy research and development.
Democrats recognize the importance of climate leadership at the local level and know that achieving our national clean energy goals requires an active partnership with states, cities, and rural communities where so much of our country’s energy policy is made. We will ensure that those taking the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency have the tools and resources they need to succeed. The federal government should lead by example, which is why we support taking steps to power the government with 100 percent clean electricity.
Democrats are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, and ensuring tough safeguards are in place, including Safe Drinking Water Act provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it. We will reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and by repairing and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes. This will both protect our climate and create thousands of good-paying jobs.
We will work to expand access to cost-saving renewable energy by low-income households, create good-paying jobs in communities that have struggled with energy poverty, and oppose efforts by utilities to limit consumer choice or slow clean energy deployment. We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar, and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.
We support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As we continue working to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions, we must ensure federal actions do not “significantly exacerbate” global warming. We support a comprehensive approach that ensures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating, climate change.
Democrats believe that our commitment to meeting the climate challenge must also be reflected in the infrastructure investments we make. We need to make our existing infrastructure safer and cleaner and build the new infrastructure necessary to power our clean energy future. To create good-paying middle class jobs that cannot be outsourced, Democrats support high labor standards in clean energy infrastructure and the right to form or join a union, whether in renewable power or advanced vehicle manufacturing. During the clean energy transition, we will ensure landowners, communities of color, and tribal nations are at the table.
Securing Environmental and Climate Justice
Democrats believe clean air and clean water are basic rights of all Americans. Yet as we saw in Flint, Michigan, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice “hot spots,” where air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards like lead increase health and economic hardship. The impacts of climate change will also disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities, tribal nations, and Alaska 29 Native villages—all of which suffer the worst losses during extreme weather and have the fewest resources to prepare. Simply put, this is environmental racism.
Democrats believe we must make it a national priority to eradicate lead poisoning, which disproportionately impacts low-income children and children of color and can lead to lifelong health and educational challenges. We will prioritize hiring and training workers from affected communities to clean up toxic brownfields and expand clean energy, energy efficiency, and resilient infrastructure.
The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind—including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations. Democrats will fight to make sure these workers and their families get the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve, and we will make new investments in energy-producing communities to help create jobs and build a brighter and more resilient economic future. We will also oppose threats to the public health of these communities from harmful and dangerous extraction practices, like mountaintop removal mining operations.
All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable. Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.
Protecting Our Public Lands and Waters
Democrats believe in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural heritage: the public lands and waterways, the oceans, Everglades, Great Lakes, the Arctic, and all that makes America’s great outdoors priceless. As a nation, we need policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands for all Americans, protect native species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.
Democrats will work to establish an American Parks Trust Fund to help expand local, state, and national recreational opportunities, rehabilitate existing parks, and enhance America’s great outdoors—from our forests and coasts to neighborhood parks—so “America’s Best Idea” is held in trust for future generations, and all Americans can access and enjoy natural spaces. Democrats are committed to doubling the size of the outdoor economy, creating nearly hundreds of billions of dollars in new economic activity and millions of new jobs.
Democrats will approach conservation of our public lands and waters in a way that reflects the diversity of our country, by actively engaging all Americans in the great outdoors and protecting natural landscapes and cultural sites that tell the story of America’s complex history. To help meet these goals, we will work to build a diverse workforce in agencies that manage America’s public lands, waters, and cultural sites.
We oppose drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast, and believe we need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands. We will phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands, 30 starting with the most polluting sources, while making our public lands and waters engines of the clean energy economy and creating jobs across the country. Democrats will work to expand the amount of renewable energy production on federal lands and waters, from wind in Wyoming to solar in Nevada.
Democrats oppose efforts to undermine the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened and endangered species.
Because the Bristol Bay drainages of Alaska produce the world’s largest salmon fisheries, we support efforts by the EPA under the Clean Water Act to establish proactively science-based restrictions on discharges of dredged or fill material associated with a potential Pebble mine and urge that such restrictions must apply to potential mines at other metallic sulfide deposits in those drainages.
Agricultural lands account for nearly half of the total land area in America and our agricultural practices have a significant impact on our water, land, oceans, and the climate. Therefore, we believe that in order to be effective in keeping our air and water clean and combating climate change, we must enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship
Global Climate Leadership
Climate change poses an urgent and severe threat to our national security, and Democrats believe it would be a grave mistake for the United States to wait for another nation to take the lead in combating the global climate emergency. According to the military, climate change is a threat multiplier that is already contributing to new conflicts over resources, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. While Donald Trump says that climate change is a “hoax” created by and for the Chinese, Democrats recognize the catastrophic consequences facing our country, our planet, and civilization.
We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis. Our generation must lead the fight against climate change and we applaud President Obama’s leadership in forging the historic Paris climate change agreement. We will not only meet the goals we set in Paris, we will seek to exceed them and push other countries to do the same by slashing carbon pollution and rapidly driving down emissions of potent greenhouse gases like hydrofluorocarbons. We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation.
As a proud Arctic nation, we are against putting the region at risk through drilling in the Arctic Ocean or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, while protecting our strategic interests, we will seek collaborative, science-based approaches to be good stewards of the rapidly changing Arctic region.
Overview of the Republican Platform on Climate Change
On the other hand, the Republican Platform encourages the extraction and sale of fossil fuels to create jobs and drive the economy. Republicans believe in “all-of-the-above energy strategies,” they propose to severely weaken the EPA and open public lands to mining and drilling. There is no mention of climate change and the need to shift away from fossil fuel consumption to renewable energy. Republicans believe “Keeping fossil fuels in the ground” eliminates jobs and raises expenses.
Republicans intend to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan currently stalled in the Supreme Court, encourage coal mining and nuclear plants, and complete the Keystone XL and similar pipelines. They support any energy source, even renewables, but no subsidies.
Any mention of climate change must be scientific, but since they believe the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change is “political” not “scientific,” it would not be accepted and the Paris Commitment would be rejected. The US would not fund any UN committees.
Excerpts from the Republican Party 2016 Platform on Climate Change
A New Era in Energy
Our country has greater energy resources than any other place on earth. Our engineers and miners, the men and women whose labor taps the forces of nature, are the best in the world. Together, the people of America’s energy sector provide us with power that is clean, affordable, secure, and abundant. Their work can guarantee the nation’s energy security for centuries to come if, instead of erecting roadblocks, government facilitates the creation of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
We applaud congressional Republicans for doing just that through far-sighted legislation. Both Houses have passed bills that will modernize pipelines and the electric grid, protect the grid from disruption, expedite energy exports, and lower energy costs. A Republican administration will build on those policies to find new ways to store electricity, a breakthrough of extraordinary import.
Planning for our energy future requires us to first determine what resources we have in reserve. Thirty years ago, the world’s estimated reserves of oil were 645 billion barrels. Today, that figure is 1.65 trillion barrels. The more we know what we will have in the future, the better we can decide how to use it. That is why we support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, even if these resources will not be immediately developed. Because we believe states can best promote economic growth while protecting the environment, Congress should give authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federally controlled public lands within their respective borders.
The Democratic Party’s energy policy can be summed up in a slogan currently popular among its activists: “keep it in the ground.” Keeping energy in the earth will keep jobs out of reach of those who need them most. For low-income Americans, expensive energy means colder homes in the winter and hotter homes in the summer, less mobility in employment, and higher food prices. The current Administration, and particularly its EPA, seems not to care. Its Clean Power Plan — the centerpiece of the President’s war on coal — has been stayed by the Supreme Court. We will do away with it altogether.
The Democratic Party does not understand that coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource. Those who mine it and their families should be protected from the Democratic Party’s radical anti-coal agenda.
The Democratic Party’s campaign to smother the U.S. energy industry takes many forms, but the permitting process may be its most damaging weapon. It takes an average of 30 days for states to permit an oil or gas well. It takes the federal government longer than seven months. Three decades ago, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leased 12.2 million acres. In 2014, it leased only one-tenth of that number.
Our nuclear industry, cleanly generating almost 20 percent of our electricity from its 99 plants, has a remarkable safety record, but only a handful of plants have been permitted in over three decades. Permitting for a safe, non-polluting hydroelectric facility, even one that is being relicensed can take many years because of the current President’s hostility to dams.
The Keystone Pipeline has become a symbol of everything wrong with the current Administration’s ideological approach. Our country has greater energy resources than any other place on earth. Our engineers and miners, the men and women whose labor taps the forces of nature, are the best in the world. After years of delay, the President killed it to satisfy environmental extremists. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security.
Government should not play favorites among energy producers. The taxpayers will not soon forget the current Administration’s subsidies to companies that went bankrupt without producing a kilowatt of energy. The same Administration now requires the Department of Defense, operating with slashed budgets during a time of expanding conflict, to use its scarce resources to generate 25 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2025. Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.
We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower. A federal judge has struck down the BLM’s rule on hydraulic fracturing and we support upholding this decision. We respect the states’ proven ability to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, and horizontal drilling, and we will end the Administration’s disregard of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act with respect to the long-term storage of nuclear waste.
We encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy — by private capital. The United States is overwhelmingly dependent on China and other nations for rare earth and other hardrock minerals. These minerals are critical to advanced technology, renewable energy, and defense manufacturing. We support expediting the permitting process for mineral production on public lands. We support lifting restrictions to allow responsible development of nuclear energy, including research into alternative processes like thorium nuclear energy.
We oppose any carbon tax. It would increase energy prices across the board, hitting hardest at the families who are already struggling to pay their bills in the Democrats’ no-growth economy. We urge the private sector to focus its resources on the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology still in its early stages here and overseas.
American energy producers should be free to export their product to foreign markets. This is particularly important because of international demand for liquefied natural gas, and we must expedite the energy export terminals currently blocked by the Administration. Energy exports will create high paying jobs throughout the United States, reduce our nation’s trade deficit, grow our economy, and boost the energy security of our allies and trading partners.
We remain committed to aggressively expanding trade opportunities and opening new markets for American energy through multilateral and bilateral agreements, whether current, pending, or negotiated in the future.
Energy is both an economic and national security issue. We support the enactment of policies to increase domestic energy production, including production on public lands, to counter market manipulation by OPEC and other nationally owned oil companies. This will reduce America’s vulnerability to energy price volatility.
Information concerning a changing climate, especially projections into the long-range future, must be based on dispassionate analysis of hard data. We will enforce that standard throughout the executive branch, among civil servants and presidential appointees alike. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy. We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly.
We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate.
We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with the 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. That law prohibits Washington from giving any money to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations” which grants Palestinians membership as a state. There is no ambiguity in that language. It would be illegal for the President to follow through on his intention to provide millions in funding for the UNFCCC and hundreds of millions for its Green Climate Fund.
We firmly believe environmental problems are best solved by giving incentives for human ingenuity and the development of new technologies, not through top-down, command-and-control regulations that stifle economic growth and cost thousands of jobs.
This article was compiled with some commentary by Lynne Nittler.
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