ScienceDebate.org recently asked President Obama and Governor Romney about their respective positions on global warming. Obama’s response is predictably eco-centric and insists on government solutions. Mitt Romney’s stance, on the other hand, is clear, detailed, and well-balanced. Though I don’t agree with Romney’s assessment that “human activities contribute to..global warming,” I do appreciate his strong opposition to carbon tax schemes like cap and trade.
Here is how the two responded when asked, “What is your position on cap and trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change–and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
Obama: We have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean-energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the federal government. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.
Romney: I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.
The reality is that the problem is called global warming, not America warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed-world emissions have leveled off while developing-world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.
So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. I believe we should pursue what I call a “no regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action. For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries.