Global Politics

The candidates on climate change and energy

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(Image: telegraph.co.uk)

When John McCain and Barack Obama assumed the national spotlight at their respective party conventions, global warming was not a major issue -- in fact, it wasn't an issue at all. In his speech, Obama mentioned the phrase "climate change" one time; McCain gave the topic no lip service in his speech.

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That's not to say the candidates are ignoring or avoiding the topic. Both McCain and Obama have aggressive plans to tackle global warming. Robert Stevens, the director of Harvard's Environmental Economics program, says there's a reason the topic fades away when the two candidates take to the national stage: "There's not a great deal of space between these two candidates on this particular issue, and that just doesn't leave a lot of room for debate."

McCain favors a 60% cut on green house gases by the middle of this century, Obama wants an 80% cut. Both candidates favor what's called a cap-and-trade system to curb these greenhouse gas emissions. The cap would place a limit on how much pollution energy producers could generate. The trade allows them to make money if they're under their pollution cap. Both candidates also say they'll engage in international climate talks with the United Nations -- something President Bush has refused to do.

So instead of talking about global warming, the two candidates have opted to talk about clean energy and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Both presidential candidates promise to wean us off foreign oil before the year 2025; but Steven Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University says: "Energy independence is a 1970s concept; it's not even a good goal. We're in a global economy, no country is independent of other countries for any of their necessities anymore, nor should they be. The whole point of the global economy is that by being interconnected, we can lower prices and increase our standard of living."

Still, the current patriotic surge calling for American energy is bringing the climate change topic to the forefront -- and that's a good thing, according to Gwyn Prins, climate policy specialist at the London School of Economics.

Prins says if the next president plays his cards right, and puts America's money towards developing clean energy, the U.S. could become the world leader in reducing the climate change impacts from energy within five years.

See specifics on where Barack Obama and John McCain stand on climate change policy.

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