The Next Vice-President: Climate Change

The next chapter is tracking six focus issues during the current presidential election process. TNC has summarized the positions of the presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Now that the candidates have selected their running mates, TNC is looking at the positions of Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence on these issues.

On Climate Change:

Do you believe that human activity is largely responsible for climate change and do you favor regulation of emissions?

TNC’s take: Scientific evidence supports the conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions have caused concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to increase in the atmosphere resulting in the observed warming since the mid-20th century. New regulations are critical to prevent or forestall the worst of the predicted climate effects. Recent extreme weather events suggest that those effects are already being felt.

Tim Kaine has not said clearly whether he believes that climate change is real. In a roundtable discussion sponsored by Think Progress in October 2012, Kaine took a pragmatic approach:

“Even for those who don’t ‘believe’ in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it’s still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead.”

While supporting clean energy—an appropriate response to climate change—Kaine avoided saying that  human activity is responsible for climate change or that regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is necessary.

On specific issues that would affect the level of greenhouse gas emissions Kaine has a mixed record: support for off-shore drilling and natural gas export terminals, but opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, support for construction of a coal-fired power plant in Virginia, but support as well for renewable energy and the formation of a state climate change commission.   More forthright expressions of concern about climate change would be difficult in Virginia, which is home to many coal miners and where, as Trip Pollard of the Southern Environmental Law Center has observed: “in Virginia in the General Assembly, you can’t use the words ‘climate change.’”

Mike Pence does not believe that climate change is real. “Global warming is a myth,” he wrote in an op-ed in 2001. Greenhouse gases are, he said, “mostly the result of volcanoes, hurricanes and underwater geologic displacements.” He seemed a little less sure in 2014, when he told Chuck Todd that he doesn’t know if man-made climate change “is a resolved issue in science today.”

Under Governor Pence, Indiana joined with 22 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over Clean Power Plan regulations that would require a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Indiana relies heavily on burning coal for electricity, and Indiana ranks eighth-highest among states for emissions of carbon dioxide. Pence has described Indiana as a “proud pro-coal state.” In a letter to President Obama, Pence rejected the Clean Power Plan and said that Indiana would “use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.”


The vice-presidential candidates’ views on the other focus issues:

On Immigration

On Health Care

On Iran

On the Minimum Wage

On Campaign Finance Reform

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