Presidential Hopefuls Propose Climate Change Plans

This story was written by Audrey Kuo, Daily Bruin
Three presidential candidates presented plans to combat climate change at a forum sponsored by several environmental groups on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards appeared in succession before an audience of about 1,000 at the Wadsworth Theater on Wilshire Boulevard as part of the event Global Warming and America's Energy Future.

Each spoke for about 10 minutes before answering a series of questions posed by a three-person panel.

Kucinich, Clinton and Edwards all said that implementing changes would be difficult, but that they were prepared to take action.

Steven Curwood, the host of Public Radio International's "Living on Earth" and one of the panelists, opened the forum by saying that all major candidates from both parties had been invited to the carbon-neutral event in August.

Curwood introduced spokesmen from the supporting organizations, as well as Laurie David, an author and producer of several films, including "An Inconvenient Truth."

David said that even normally cautious scientists are alarmed about the rate of climate change.

"Solving global warming can be America's and humanity's finest moment. Continuing to ignore it can be our worst," David said. "We need the magnitude of the political response to match the magnitude of the problem."

David then introduced Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who pointed to the fires that tore through Southern California as one of the effects of climate change.

"With just 22 percent of normal rainfall, Californians can see and feel the future of a warming planet right outside of their doors and windows," he said.

The mayor criticized the Bush administration's environmental policies, which drew applause and cheers from the audience, who also cheered when the candidates made similar statements throughout the event.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'll tell you what this forum comes down to," Villaraigosa said. "It's time we had somebody in the White House who actually believes in science."

After the mayor left the stage, Curwood introduced his fellow panelists: David Roberts, a staff writer for environmental news and commentary Web site, and Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.

Kucinich, the first candidate to speak, cited his vegan lifestyle, small home and fuel-efficient Ford Focus as evidence of his concern for the environment.

He said he would extend his convictions to the national level, proposing a "Works Green Administration" that would infuse environmental consciousness into all aspects of government. Kucinich described the program as a "concept whose time has come: to make government an engine of sustainability."

The congressman also asked the audience to imagine a president not tied to interest groups or carbon-based energy lobbyists in any way, shape or form.

Kucinich said he would also fight those influences over legislation and that he would have "no hesitation to go over Congress, right to the American people."

Clinton spoke next, repeating Curwood's praise for California's energy initiatives. She said she hoped those changes could be developed into national policy.

The senator quoted a recent United Nations report on "the abrupt and irreversible consequences of global warming." She then outlined her "bold, comprehensive plan" to tackle energy dependence and the climate crisis.

Her three major goals, Clinton said, are to reduce greenhouse gases to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, to cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds by 2030 and to move from a carbon-based economy to a green economy by encouraging innovation.

Clinton also described the dire conseqences and risks of inaction.

"We cannot afford to fiddle while the world warms," she said. "We already know conclusively what that will do to us."

Edwards, the final candidate to speak at the forum, emphasized what he believes is a need for American innovators to seize the opportunity to develop a new energy economy. He said that though solar energy was developed in the United States, 90 percent of solar panels are now produced overseas.

Edwards' plan to combat climate change had four goals: to cut subsidies for carbon industries, to start a new era of innovation and competition by modernizing energy grids, to support innovation with low-interest loans, and to encourage utilities companies to develop and use more efficient energy technology.

In answering the questions of the panel, Edwards strayed from the environmental focus of the event, segueing into comments about the war in Iraq, universal health care, trade agreements and other aspects of foreign policy.

After posing questions, the panel allowed each candidate to deliver an uninterrupted response, essentially allowing 20 more minutes of additional campaigning for each presidential hopeful.

Kucinich, Clinton and Edwards all received at least partial standing ovations as they arrived on stage, after speaking, and again after answering questions. Though Clinton drew the loudest applause when arriving on stage, there were also audible boos from audience members.

As Clinton was addressing the panel, a protester in the audience rose from his seat and yelled, "I have a question for you!" After removing his jacket to reveal anti-war slogans, the man was dragged out of the auditorium by police, screaming, "A million deaths on American hands, and she's talking about the environment?"
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