How the candidates stack up on climate change

As the world gathers in Paris to hammer out a new comprehensive agreement to tackle climate change, the success or failure of that deal will rest to a great degree on the next president of the United States. Regardless of one's political or economic views, or scientific understanding of the topic, a lot is at stake for the world's environment and its economy, so our next choice of president matters.

Here is a snapshot of the top candidates' (based on current polls) positions on climate change and energy policy.

Instructions: Hold down the "control" key and click on the photo of a candidate and an issue to see his/her position, then hit "enter." To compare multiple candidates on an issue, hold down the "control" key and click on the photos of the candidates and then the issue and then hit "enter."

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Of course there are many more nuances to climate change and our energy choices than the few presented in this snapshot, but it does make clear which candidates are planning for a more sustainable future and which ones would keep us hostage to 19th century technology and energy sources. To be sure, some candidates have more detailed views on the subject, especially Republicans who know they might appeal to their primary election voters with fossil-fueled rhetoric, but will need a greener view to win a general election.


For example, in 2008, when I worked with Charlie Crist and Marcio Rubio, then the Florida governor and State Assembly speaker in Florida, respectively, on clean energy and climate-change policies, both Republicans embraced the challenge — largely because of the opportunity to develop more solar power in the "Sunshine State," use the abundant biomass from Florida's citrus and sugar-cane industries to make cleaner fuels, and save money with energy efficiency programs like the ones we had pioneered in California.

I assume Rubio's current preference for "brown" energy over "green" may change back to his earlier colors if he wins his party's nomination for president next year and needs to appeal to voters who want action on climate change. Was he trying to thread this tricky needle when, as a United States senator, he co-sponsored two bills to block implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan this year, but then skipped two votes in the Senate on resolutions that would have done the same thing?

In truth, there should be no disagreement here. The technologies that address greenhouse-gas reductions are also massive domestic economic opportunities, especially those applied to renewables and clean fuels, energy efficiency,and waste reduction and reuse. The only real question is whether our next president has a high climate IQ and uses that wisdom, along with nearly 200 nations that will reach an agreement in Paris this month, to take meaningful action before its too late to avoid the worst environmental and economic consequences.

Commentary by Terry Tamminen, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency in the Schwarzenegger administration. He has authored numerous books on sustainability, and is a co-founder of the R20 Regions of Climate Action. Follow him on Twitter @terrytamminen.