Earlier this year, Peru passed a resolution to reduce its carbon footprint. It prescribed the use of clean energy and a stop to the illegal culling of Amazonian rainforests. Peru acted with good reason. Peru is a country that relies on its agricultural and fishing sectors as major sources of employment and food. A majority of the country’s population lives in the coastal desert, and relies on water from shrinking mountain glaciers and ever-more erratic rains in the Andes. As a result, climate change could hammer the Peruvian economy and Peruvians’ way of life.
That said, Peru produces just 0.4% of the world’s carbon emissions. Any solution to global climate change will have to come from beyond Peru’s borders, and one of the places where that change must happen is the United States of America. The U.S. produces some 18% of the world’s carbon emissions, second only to China. Nonetheless, the U.S. has failed to implement wide-ranging policies to reduce carbon emissions. How do Barack Obama and Mitt Romney see the problem of climate change, and what solutions do they offer?
Mitt Romney has expressed some seemingly contradictory positions on the causes of climate change, according to a timeline compiled by Climate Silence. In his 2010 book No Apology, Romney questioned the scientific consensus attributing climate change to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. On the campaign trail the next year, however, he told a town hall meeting that he believed that humans were contributing to global warming, and that therefore, “…it\‘s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.”
Months later, however, Romney again began publicly questioning the idea that global warming is caused by humans. “I don\‘t know if it\‘s mostly caused by humans. … What I\‘m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don\‘t know the answer to,” he said in Lebanon, New Hampshire. This year, however, Romney told Science Debate, “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.”
That said, Romney’s policy recommendations on issues of energy and government regulation suggest that concerns about climate change will not weigh heavily on his decision-making. Romney is strongly advocating an increase of gas and oil drilling both on-and-off-shore in the United States. Romney opposed a tax credit for the production of wind energy.
Romney has also taken a dim view of proposals to regulate carbon emissions. He stated that he disagreed with the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to oversee carbon emissions as pollutants. While Romney voiced some support for cap and trade (in which carbon emission limits would be set, and companies could buy and sale credits for emissions) while governor of Massachusetts, the policy is not part of his 2012 platform.
For those concerned about climate change, Obama’s first term in office has been a mixed bag of success and disappointment. Obama has continued U.S. resistance to the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty which prescribes cuts in carbon emissions, despite the U.S. having signed the document in 1997. While Obama pushed cap and trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009, the bill died in the Senate and has shown no signs of being resuscitated.
After the failure of cap and trade, however, Obama empowered the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as pollutants. His administration also toughened emissions standards for cars and trucks. His administration has sought to have subsidies for oil and gas companies lowered and eliminated, while pushing for tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy providers.
Looking ahead, Obama has made little mention of climate change in the 2012 campaign. One notable exception was his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, when he said that, “Climate change is not a hoax,” and promised further carbon reduction. Nevertheless, Obama’s platform includes more oil and gas drilling the United States.
This is the second entry in a series looking at the U.S. election and its possible effects for Peru. The first entry looked at the immigration issue.