There is much discussion about the US election and at the same time there is so little that is actually discussed. One of the topics that has been overshadowed by discussions of “locker room talk” and email servers is climate change. How would Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump actually handle climate politics if they became the president of one of the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters?
There is a huge difference in the candidates’ approaches to climate change. The first, rather obvious, difference is that Hillary Clinton acknowledges climate change and global warming as a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has on several occasions denied that increased global warming is a consequence of human activities and has called the whole field of research “pseudoscience”. If he would become president he would stand as the only world leader denying climate science.
How does this huge difference in approach to climate change influence the climate policy of the two candidates?
The climate debate in the US often revolves around energy. A symbolic decision that Barack Obama made when it came to the future energy supply of the country was to not allow the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. This was an oil pipeline that was intended to be built from Alberta in Canada to Nebraska in the US and carry up to 830 000 barrels of oil per day. Obama listened to the arguments of the environmental movement and decided to stop the construction of the pipeline, which has been acknowledged as a huge climate statement.
Of course, the future of this pipeline will depend on who takes office next. Clinton was for long reluctant to speak about this question in her campaign. However, she has finally promised to keep the Keystone pipeline from being built. Trump, on the other hand, would allow it. 1 for Clinton, 0 for Trump, if you’re rooting for a sustainable planet.
The ministry in charge of environmental issues in the US is the Environmental Protection Agency. It was in the spotlight last year when Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan, a climate policy suggestion meant to reduce emissions using regulations on a federal level. As a result of a lawsuit against the bill, the future of the Clean Power Plan is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. If the plan would be stopped by the court, future national emission cutting plans would probably be ruled out too. Here the nomination of a judge to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s position, and that person’s view on the matter, are of great importance. Hillary Clinton has stated that she is for the plan, and would therefore continue with it if it is allowed. Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Clean Power Plan. In fact he has said he wants to close down the entire Environmental Protection Agency. This statement might sound outrageous, but it is actually quite a common opinion amongst Republicans. Whether or not Donald Trump would go through with closing down the EPA, his intention to do so brings the score to 2 for Clinton, 0 for Trump.
Even though the US is a huge carbon dioxide emitter, they are not alone in worsening the problem of global warming. International climate politics have been in the spotlight lately, much due to the successfully completed climate change agreement at COP21 in 2016. The agreement is legally binding and includes nationally determined contributions to reduce emissions. The US has already signed and ratified the agreement which means that no matter the national environmental policy the US President has to take measures to reduce emissions, as long as the US does not withdraw itself from the agreement. This, however, is exactly what Donald Trump has promised to do. He has even said that he wants to “cancel” the agreement. He might be overrating the power of a US President in thinking he could stop the whole agreement, but if a country like the US withdraws from the Paris Agreement, it could create a domino effect. Clinton, on the other hand, does not have any plans on withdrawing from the agreement, which closes the score at 3 for Clinton and 0 for Trump.
If one would look to what is needed in terms of climate policy in the US to combat global warming and compare Clinton’s and Trump’s politics and policies to that, both would probably get a low score. But in comparison between the two candidates, Clinton at least gives a semblance of caring for the environment. I mean, unlike some people, she is aware that global warming is real.
Kajsa Fernström Nåtby