An overview of the presidential candidates’ plans for climate change

Climate change is one of the top issues for voters in the United States. The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement cannot take place before November 4, 2020, making the upcoming 2020 Presidential election crucial for both those for and against the agreement.

Parties are split when it comes to the issue of climate change. For Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, 84 percent say that climate change is a major threat, while 27 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters agree, according to a 2019 study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Through their platforms, presidential candidates have introduced various different plans to combat climate change. Some share similarities, but others share various differences.

Major decisions that are occurring in the current administration have impacted relations to combat climate change. The Paris Agreement, a landmark agreement to combat climate change with a main goal to limit the Earth’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, was signed by 175 parties and entered force on Nov. 4, 2016.

President Donald Trump announced on June 1, 2017 his plan to withdraw the United States from the agreement.

The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement cannot take place before Nov. 4. 2020, making the upcoming 2020 Presidential election crucial for both those for and against the agreement. Every Democratic candidate has announced their support for re-entering the Paris Agreement.

The Green New Deal was introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. While variations of the plan has been around for a few years, the Green New Deal was officially proposed to the White House on Feb. 7, 2019.

The Green New Deal does not have a policy written yet, but it outlines major goals. These goals include reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 through a 10-year natural mobilization process, placing a “carbon tax” that charges users of fossil fuels and creating jobs for former employees of fossil fuel companies.

Several candidates have endorsed the act as part of their proposal to combat climate change, while others have proposed their own ideas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have all co-sponsored the Green New Deal, incorporating parts of it into their own climate proposals.

Some candidates have shown support for the Green New Deal without fully endorsing it. Former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and billionaire Tom Steyer support the Green New Deal but do not wish to enforce it.

Andrew Yang has shown support for the Green New Deal, but he is one of the few candidates who said he believes that nuclear energy is a crucial component of moving toward a carbon-free nation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana do not support the Green New Deal.

Candidates have also expressed different years in which their plan would allow for lowering emissions or other ways to decrease substances that are contributing to climate change as well. Most candidates have laid out a goal to reach net-zero emissions and become carbon neutral by specific years as shown in the graphic below.

Sanders has the most expensive plan out of all the candidates at $16.3 trillion over 15 years, which has a major focus on creating 20 million new jobs in manufacturing, renewable energy and other sectors. His plan adopts proposed policies from the Green New Deal and most closely aligns with its goals. Funding would come from new taxes, carbon taxes, fees and litigations against fossil fuel companies and military spending cuts.

Harris and Castro have both proposed plans at $10 trillion that come from both public and private funding. Both of their plans have a focus on vulnerable communities and low-income communities who are the most affected by the impacts of climate change, such as providing housing and aid for coastal communities, as well as environmental justice.

Beto had proposed a plan of $5 trillion over the next 10 years, in which $3.5 trillion of the funding would come from citizen taxes, carbon taxes, loans and other financing mechanisms. His plan incorporated preparing vulnerable communities for the effects of climate change and preparing for the future, which includes funding for climate change research and science.

Yang has proposed a $4.87 trillion plan that has a focus on repairing the damage that has already been caused by climate change.

“Well, I would invest billions of dollars to try and mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change, including the flooding that we saw last year,” Yang said. “It’s one of those situations where we wait to try to repair the damage, it’s going to cost us two, three, four times as much.”

Biden’s proposed plan includes $1.7 trillion from federal investments, along with private, state and local investments to total at over $5 trillion.

Buttigieg’s plan sits at $1.5-2 trillion with proposed funding from state, local and private investments as well as a carbon tax. His plan does not include funding on a federal level. However, his plan addresses the US military and the role that the U.S. plays in international relations on climate change.

Other candidates have proposed plans that are not as expensive, with Klobuchar’s plan at $1 trillion and Steyer’s proposed plan of $200 billion. Gabbard, Trump, Sanford and Bullock have not put out any sort of funding proposal.

On the Republican side, Trump has been open in his opposition of the Green New Deal, believing the act costs too much money and could ruin the lives of many Americans. He has been an outspoken climate change denier and plans to roll back climate change regulations previously implemented, such as the Clean Power Plan and opening public lands for oil and gas drilling. The Trump administration has cut regulation policies for industries that create a large amount of pollution in America.

Many candidates are looking towards young voters and encouraging everyone to get out and vote. At Iowa State, many students are involved in campaigns and look to get other students involved in the voting process.

“I would absolutely encourage students and faculty and staff to consider those we want in positions of power and decisions,” said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability at Iowa State. “Really look at those things that are important to us in our lives and to the future of those will inherit the planet from us and what is important for that life to look like.”

Bill Gutowski, meteorology professor at Iowa State, said students and young voters should be focused on wanting to build a better future for themselves and stay active in politics.

“I think that younger people especially should be making and demanding that people pay attention to their future,” Gutowski said.