You Ought to Have a Look: Platform Planks on Energy and the Environment

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger.  While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic.  Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

With the end of Convention season mercifully upon us, we thought we ought to have a look at what the party platforms have to say about energy and the environment, with an eye on climate change policies in particular.

We’ll start out with the Democratic Party Platform.

The Democrats are of the mind that human-caused climate change is one of the major problems facing the country/world today, describing it as “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.”

It’s unclear that the voters feel that way… although part of the Democrats strategy for this election seems to be to try to persuade them otherwise.

The Democratic platform is chock full of government actions that promise to initiate, broaden and extend the current set of rules, regulation, and orders seeking to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases), largely by way of lessening (on the way to eliminating) our reliance on fossil fuels as our primary source of energy production. This collection of promised federal actions is large both in scope and number and includes everything from pursuing a carbon tax

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.

to furthering regulatory control

Democrats are committed to defending, implementing, and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards

to rallying international efforts

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.

and even to prosecuting folks who don’t toe to party line

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.

All and all, an extremely ambitious plan:

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.

The Republican sees things almost completely differently.

The Republican Party Platform does not share the Democrats’ concerns that climate change is a major pressing issue. Instead it describes how the severity of the issue has been grossly distorted through “intolerance toward scientists and others” who dissent from the “orthodoxy.”

The Republican platform wants to both reel in most for the current climate efforts put in place by the Obama Administration as well as put the kibosh on any new federal actions on reducing carbon dioxide emissions through restricting energy choice. As for current actions, the Platform includes things like

We will likewise forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide, something never envisioned when Congress passed the Clean Air Act.

and

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.

and

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.

and

We oppose any carbon tax.

Instead, the Republicans want to ease restrictions and encourage development of any energy production methods that are competitive in the free marketplace. This includes support for

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.

as well

the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy — by private capital.

and for

lifting restrictions to allow responsible development of nuclear energy, including research into alternative processes like thorium nuclear energy.

Ultimately, the Republicans

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.

And then there is the Libertarian Party Platform. This platform is considerably less wordy than their Democratic or Republican counterparts without any direct mention of climate change. Here are the sections on the Energy and the Environment in their entirety:

2.2 Environment

Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.

2.3 Energy and Resources

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

It you like big government, the Democrats have a deal for you. If you prefer that the federal government largely stay out of our energy markets, then you’ll find much to like in either the Republican or Libertarian Platforms.

In our opinion, this presidential election should not be about climate change itself as we don’t believe that the risks and challenges it presents are greater than the ones that are posed by its proposed “solutions”(see our soon-to-be-updated book Lukewarming: The New Science that Changes Everything for reasons why we think the way we do). But, this election should be about climate change policies. A Democratic Administration will seek a further expansion of the reach of the federal government into our daily lives as the impacts of their vigorous pursuit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions increasing find their way into all aspects of our daily lives—reducing choice and increasing costs of all manner of things, while having minimal effect on the actual climate. As it stands now, the federal government’s reach has grown perilously. It is high time to insure the Constitutional limitations placed upon it are restored and respected.