Environmental Values in the 2020 Election
Now more than ever, environmental legislation is of the utmost importance in order to preserve and protect our nation’s health and beauty. In the past 10 years, our country has seen the progressive, policy-developing era of the Obama administration, including his Clean Power Plan and industrial pollution limits, and a 180-degree flip to the Trump Administration, which has been slowly peeling back almost all the progress of his predecessor. The scope of influence one elected individual can have on the environment is, at the least, very alarming. For this reason, ION has listed below the environmental policy track records of every individual who has announced their campaigns to run in the 2020 presidential election.
Select a photo below to jump to that candidate’s bio.
Elizabeth Warren has been a Democratic senator from Massachusetts since 2013 and the Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus since 2017. President Trump has often referred to Senator Warren as “Pocahontas” amongst the controversy that surrounds her Native American heritage. In 2018 at Trump’s rally in Montana, he wagered one million dollars to Warren’s favorite charity if she got a DNA test to prove her ancestry was part Native. When she received her results from the test, it showed her Native American ancestry originated 6-10 generations ago. Trump later denied his proposed wager.
Warren’s political history shows a comprehensive and supportive view on the issue of climate change. She shows strong support for investing in renewable energies and opposes giving tax breaks to non-renewable energies. In March 2017, Warren was one of 30 Democrats that promoted a bill that would block President Trump’s executive order to roll back Obama-era clean energy regulations. Last September, Warren proposed the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, which would require companies to disclose their energy use and dependence on fossil fuels to the public and investors.
John Delaney is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serving the 6th congressional district of Maryland since 2013. Delaney is known as a centrist and believes that his middle views will be able to mend the political divide.
Delaney is a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition which, according to their website, serves to promote policies that support green technology, develop renewable energies, create green domestic jobs, and promote the overall wellness of the nation’s natural environment. Delaney also supports implementing a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which taxes fossil fuels as a way to decrease their usage.
Julián Castro served as the mayor of his native San Antonio from 2009 until Obama appointed him the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. He served until 2017.
Castro’s history shows support for the Paris agreement and he plans to pass a Green New Deal. In his past history as mayor, he developed green transportation through bike and car sharing programs, however, he did support a proposed fracking project in the nearby Eagle Ford Shale formation.
Tulsi Gabbard has served the 2nd congressional district of Hawaii in the House of Representatives since 2013 but stepped down from her role as the Vice Chair for the National Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016. She made history in her election, being the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of Congress.
The Sierra Club has endorsed Gabbard since her first election in 2013 for being a strong advocate for the protection of Hawaii’s health and environment. Throughout her career, Gabbard has been an active advocate for environmental rights, joining the protest to block the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 and introducing an aggressive green energy bill, named Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (HR3671), that entailed 100% clean renewable energy by 2035.
Kirsten Gillibrand has served in the House of Representatives (2006-2009) and the Senate (2009-2018) both for the state of New York. She has a close affiliation with Hillary Clinton, working under her for Clinton’s Senate election in 2000 and being chosen to succeed Clinton in the Senate in 2009 when the former first lady was appointed Secretary of State.
Senator Gillibrand has a shorter list of political effort to bring about environmental change than other Democrats running for president, but she does consider herself a strong advocate for strengthening environmental standards. On her personal website, she vows to protect the natural resources of New York and develop new technologies that address climate change and create green jobs. In 2015, Gillibrand was part of a bipartisan effort to ban the sale of microbeads in products in order to protect the wildlife and community of Lake Erie.
Kamala Harris had served as the 32nd Attorney General of California under Jerry Brown from 2011 until 2017 when she was elected to the Senate. She is the first senator to be of Jamaican and Indian ancestry. Her campaign is fueled by vows to fight for the largest middle-class tax cut in a generation.
Harris has a history of wanting strong environmental protection laws. She has a goal to transform America’s energy use to 100 percent renewables and supports the proposed Green New Deal, which aims to address climate change and economic inequality by creating green jobs that reduce the United States’ environmental impact. In her time as San Francisco’s Attorney General (2004-2011), she created an environmental justice unit that prosecuted companies like Costco Busan for an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay.
Pete Buttigieg has been the standing mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012, whereupon election he was the youngest mayor who had served in a U.S. city with a population over 100,000 at 29 years old. Buttigieg is an alum of Harvard University, Pembroke College, and Oxford and also served as an officer in the Navy Reserves and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. If he were elected, he would be the youngest as well as the first openly gay president.
Buttigieg does not have a large political history as other candidates have and his views on environmental policies as of now are vague. His political campaign is centered around bringing more contemporary ideas to the forefront of political conversation and making policies for the future, which will more likely than not include climate change action.
Brooker is the current U.S. Senator representing New Jersey and has been serving since 2013. Before then, he served as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. He is most noted for being one of the most liberal senators, supporting bills concerning women’s rights, same-sex marriage, non-discrimination employment acts, and single-payer healthcare.
Senator Brooker is a member of New Jersey’s Environment and Public Works Committee, which addresses the threat of climate change and rising sea levels to the state. Through implemented policy, he has banned oil drilling near the coast, cleaned up Superfund sites and brownfields, improved air quality, and helped citizens of the state prepare for and repair damages from coastal storms like Superstorm Sandy.
Andrew Yang is an American entrepreneur who in 2015 was appointed by the Obama administration as an Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship. He is also accredited for the foundation of Venture for American, which is a non-profit that helps recent college graduates and young professionals develop skills to work for startup companies in New York City. Yang’s goals for his 2020 campaign are to address artificial intelligence and how it affects the American workforce and to implement a base income for every American age 18 and older.
Although Yang has not passed any environmental policies, as he never held a public office, on his website he addresses the issues of human-inspired climate change and the urgency for the federal government to regulate fossil fuel use and implement a carbon tax among other proposed policies.
Marianne Williamson is a four-time New York Times bestselling author, a spiritual teacher, an entrepreneur and activist. One of her most notable books, Healing the Soul of America, addresses the need for religious intervention into the political sphere to “heal our society” and lays out a set of plans to achieve such healing. She is also well known for founding Project Angel Food, which delivers food to individuals with AIDS and other debilitating illnesses. In 2014, Williamson attempted to run for the House of Representatives in California’s 34th District but came in 4th with 13.2 percent of the vote.
Although Williamson is a very liberal activist, her work with environmental policy is slim. In a blog post on her website titled "The Debate is Over," she scrutinized the federal government for not acting to protect the environment, prioritizing profit over regulation and legislation. She cites Scott Pruitt of the EPA as “an actual enemy of environmental protection” and disagrees greatly with the United States rejecting the Paris Agreement.
Amy Klobuchar is a former lawyer who has served as a senator for Minnesota since 2007. She is on the more conservative side of the spectrum, which stands as a stark contrast among the other, considerably more left, candidates. She is also a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Senator Klobuchar is a supporter of the Green New Deal, but she has said in past interviews that she would propose minor changes to its structure should it be passed. In her history as a senator, she has been a mixed advocate for environmental policy, condemning President Trump for releasing 2018’s climate change report on Black Friday, but in 2014, she and six other Democrats urged the EPA to give states more time to comply with their carbon cut policy, eventually eliminating the 2020 target for states in carbon reduction.
Senator Sanders is the longest-serving Independent senator in history, representing Vermont since 2007. He is known for having a very progressive view and receives bipartisan backlash for his “socialist” agenda. His 2020 campaign will reflect his 2016 run with a push for universal healthcare, free college tuition, and a $15 minimum wage.
Like other candidates in the Democratic nomination, Sanders acknowledges the immediate threats to climate change, saying in his 2016 campaign that climate change will cause terrorism to rise as groups begin to fight for dwindling resources like land and water. He also supports the creation of more environmentally conscious infrastructure and energy.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke grew up in El Paso, Texas and has represented the 16th District of Texas from 2013 to 2018. He was catapulted into the national spotlight when he ran for a Senate seat against Republican and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz. He narrowly lost to Cruz but made Texas history by collecting the most votes ever for a Democrat with 48.3 percent. O’Rourke has been most distinctive in this race for his use of social media, his popularity with the younger generation, and extensive fundraising.
O’Rourke has been an advocate for environmental issues throughout his political career. His voting record in public office shows a high voting rate in agreement with environmental policy and he has publically advocated for a carbon tax and an increased investment in renewable energy. In 2016, O’Rourke passed the Caster Range National Monument, which set aside 7,081 acres of land in Northeast El Paso, becoming the largest national monument in any U.S. city.
Democrat Tim Ryan is the current representative of Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, serving since 2003. Most notably, he ran against Nancy Pelosi in 2016 for the party leader for the House Democrats but lost. Representative Ryan has shown duel support for keystone Democratic issues in his career: He went from being anti-abortion and pro-gun to pro-abortion and anti-gun, which could pose some issue for the candidate.
In recent interviews, Ryan has revealed one of his key stances is support for green energy. His support stems mostly from the economic opportunity from the growing renewable industries, but under his policies, he has plans to make America a huge producer of green energy infrastructure.
Jay Inslee is the current governor of Washington, serving since 2013, and was the former U.S. House Representative of Washington for various districts spanning from 1983 to 2012. During his career as a governor, he has issued a suspension of the death penalty, raised the minimum wage, and started programs that addressed mental health.
Inslee’s campaign centers heavily around climate change, his campaign website stating, “I’ve dedicated my public life to fighting climate change. That's why I'm running for president to take on the defining issue of our time.” He promises that his campaign will be centered around defeating the issue of climate change while building the U.S. economy by investing in green energy.
John Hickenlooper was the mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011, when he won the election to become the governor of Colorado. Under his governance, Colorado passed the legalization of recreational marijuana and held the state to the greenhouse gas reduction goals set by the Paris Agreement, even after the United States pulled out.
As opposed to many Democratic candidates in the 2020 elections, Hickenlooper is a supporter of the oil and gas industry and is a strong advocate for the fracking industry. Due to his background as a geologist, he believes that fracking is a process that causes little environmental harm and demonstrated this by drinking a glass of fracking liquid in 2013.
Joe Biden was a Senator from Delaware from 1973 until 2009, when he was chosen to run alongside former President Obama as vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. This would be the third time Biden has made a run for the presidency, running once in 1988 and again in 2008. His chances in the 2020 elections could be compromised by countless inappropriate and sexual conduct allegations from women who have been in contact with Biden over his years in public office.
Climate change action is not Biden’s main focus in his 2020 campaign, but he does state his goal to give every citizen access to “clean drinking water, clean air, and an environment free from pollutants.”
Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States. Before becoming president, he was a television personality and a businessman. His first term has been marked by political growth, but also by an increasing partisan polarization and numerous scandals surrounding his relations with Russia and his relationship with adult actress Stormy Daniels, among other things. He has a strong, devoted following that believes that Trump will continue to “Make America Great Again.”
As for President Trump’s environmental policy, it demonstrates a 180-degree switch from that of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Some of his first actions as president were to pull out of the Paris Agreement and advocating for the increased use of fossil fuels instead of renewable energy. Trump has also claimed multiple times on his Twitter account that climate change does not exist. One of his most infamous environmental actions was appointing Scott Pruitt as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. During Pruitt’s career, he has challenged dozens of EPA regulations and has managed to deregulate many policies, including those that limit pollution from industries, those that protect waterways, and those that limit the United States’ carbon emissions. There is no evidence to show that Trump plans to change his policies for this upcoming election to support environmental protection.