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How Republican Presidential Candidates Approach Climate Change

Climate change is happening, and all current presidential candidates can agree on that. However, their stances on this issue differ significantly.

During the early Republican Party primary debates, moderators couldn't get the candidates to raise their hands to express their views on climate change when asked, "Do you believe that human activity is causing climate change?"

When Republicans advocate for action on climate change, they often argue that the primary focus should be on China and India, exerting pressure on these major polluters to do more. Most Republican Party platforms also call for an increase in domestic energy production while continuing to rely on fossil fuels. They frequently oppose regulations and subsidies to promote the production of clean energy and electric vehicles.

Overall, climate change is not a driving force in American elections at the macro level. However, it is an issue that concerns young voters regardless of their party affiliation. People of color, who often suffer the most from the effects of climate change, and women also consistently assert that this issue should be a priority.

This is where Republican presidential candidates voice their views on the nuances of climate change.

Is Climate Change Real and Human-Caused?

All candidates can agree that the climate is changing, and extreme weather events are a problem. However, not all of them agree that humans are the driving force behind it. During the last presidential election, former President Trump stated that people were "to some extent" responsible for climate change but then shifted the focus to forest management, describing it in 2018 as a "leaf cleanup" proposal rather than a plan to combat planetary warming and pollution.

The overwhelming majority of scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is primarily caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. However, many Republican Party members view any acknowledgment of this consensus by their presidential candidates as progress for a party that has deepened its denial of widely accepted climate science over the past decade.

What Energy Sources Should the U.S. Expand?

Despite the scientific consensus that fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change, all Republican presidential candidates prioritize oil, gas, and fossil fuel extraction. Former President Trump famously declared, "Drill, baby, drill," while also expanding nuclear and hydroelectric power.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to "ramp up oil and gas exploration," even though he blocked drilling on 20,000 acres of wetlands in Florida in 2020. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum prioritizes coal, oil, and gas but also wants to expand carbon capture and sequestration projects, a controversial climate solution supported by major industrial sectors and the Biden administration. It involves capturing carbon dioxide before it leaves smokestacks and injecting it deep underground.

How Should the U.S. Address Climate Change Primarily?

Two candidates who are more outspoken about climate change, Haley and Christie, primarily want to confront other countries, such as China and India, regarding their role in reducing emissions.

China is the largest contributor to climate change, followed by the U.S. and India. However, the U.S. and other wealthy nations have historically made the largest historical contributions to climate change, and their emissions per capita remain significantly higher than China or India.

None of the Republican candidates have proposed plans to reduce global warming emissions. According to scientists, this is crucial to preventing catastrophic temperature increases that could lead to events like catastrophic sea-level rise, mass extinctions, and even deadlier heatwaves.

All candidates typically frame the role of the U.S. in addressing climate change through a protectionist lens, often circling back to fossil fuel development, reducing reliance on foreign sources of energy, and increasing domestic energy production.