Watch CBS News

The Candidates On Climate Change

For the series "Primary Questions: Character, Leadership & The Candidates," CBS News anchor Katie Couric asked the 10 leading presidential candidates 10 questions designed to go beyond politics and show what really makes them tick.

One of the hottest debates in the country is about global warming. Is it over-hyped? The public doesn't think so. A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that more than half of those surveyed said global warming is a serious problem that's having a serious impact right now.

But more Democrats feel that way than Republicans: 71 percent to 42 percent.

Check out the complete poll results.
For the third part of the special series "Primary Questions," Couric asked the candidates: "Do you think the risks of climate change are at all overblown?"

Check out the candidates' full responses in our "Primary Questions" video library.


Edwards: It seems to me that every time we get more scientific information it indicates the problem is more severe, more serious than we though. So, no, I don't think it's being over-hyped.

Couric: What three things would you do about it?

Edwards: Have a national cap on carbon emissions. I'd make polluters pay, people who below the cap are still putting out carbon dioxide. And that money from making the polluters pay for a permit to do that should be invested in clean, renewable sources of energy, wind, solar, fuels. We have to clean up our act. As we start cleaning up our act, I think we're in a place to be able to go to China, to India, to the other countries that need to be part of the solution and say "we're developing the technology. We're willing to make this technology available to you. But we're gonna have to solve this problem together."


Thompson: There are a lot of unanswered questions. We don't know to the extent this is a cyclical thing. This may or may not effect very much. The extremists, I think, are the ones who want to do drastic things to our economy before we have more answers as to how much good we can do, and whether or not people in the other parts of the world are going to contribute. It's the fact that our entitlements are bankrupting the next generation. We're spending the money of those yet to be born and we can't continue that way.

Couric: You think that the state of entitlements is a more serious problem than global warming?

Thompson: It's a more obvious problem. I mean, ultimately global warming may be a greater problem. I don't think we know the answer to that. I can't give you a list of specific items I would address. I think research and development has got to be at the top of that list.


Clinton: I don't think that it's over-hyped. I think we have time but we have to start acting now. I would put a heavy emphasis on energy efficiency. We cab drastically lower our use of electricity, thereby drastically lowering our use of coal-powered electricity. We need to have higher gas mileage and I have advocated 40 miles per gallon by 2020 and I believe that's achievable. But we're gonna have to help Detroit do it. I don't want to sacrifice jobs to do it. I want to leave the world in a post-Kyoto agreement that I hope we can get resolved and signed that will include China and India.

Want to have energy independence bonds like we had during the World War when we had war bonds. If we have people buying those bonds, we will take that money and put it into what I would call a strategic energy fund. This has to be change from the lowest level of the family and business level all the way up to the national and international level.


McCain: I have been to Greenland, I have been to the South Pole. I've been to the Arctic and I know it's real. I believe that we've got to go back to nuclear power. We've got to do alternative energy. We've got to have a cap and trade proposal which Joe Lieberman and I have proposed.

We need to do green technologies. Let me put it this way to you. Suppose I'm wrong, there's no such thing as climate change, and we adopt green technologies. Then we've just left our kids a better world. Suppose I am right and we do nothing? Then what kind of planet have we handed to our children.

I've been involved in this effort for many years. And we've got to act. And unfortunately, we have not acted either as a federal government or a Congress.

Couric: Why has it taken so long, Senator?

McCain: Special interests. It's the special interests. It's the utility companies and the petroleum companies and other special interests. They're the ones that have blocked progress in the Congress of the United States and the administration. That's a little straight talk.


Obama: No, I think they're serious. We have to take significant steps now to deal with it. So I've put forward a very substantial proposal to get 80 percent reductions in greenhouse gases by 2050. That is going to require that we change how power plants operate. That's going to require that we increase fuel efficiency standards, that we develop clean and renewable sources like solar and wind and biodiesel.

And, you know, we're going to have to charge for pollution and create a market for pollution abatement and create green technologies that can, over the long term, generate jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities all over the country. But we've got a moral obligation to deal with this. And you're already seeing the effects in not just the United States but all around the world in ways that ultimately could affect our national security.


Romney: I think the risks of climate change are real. And that you're seeing real climate change. And I think human activity is contributing to it. I would develop within this country sources of energy which would allow us to be free of foreign oil. But sources that don't emit CO2. And that's nuclear power, clean-burning coal, all of our renewable resources and so forth. I also wanna see much greater efficiencies in our autos, in our homes, in our businesses. That'll get is energy independent.

I don't wanna have America unilaterally think it's somehow gonna stop global warming. They don't call it America warming. They call it global warming. And that means China, which is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world, as well as other nations, like Indonesia and Brazil, are gonna have to be a part of the global effort. So Kyoto was wrong, because it left major polluting nations out.


Richardson: No, if anything they're underblown. Three things I would do is I would have fuel efficiency in all vehicles 50 miles per gallon. The second I would say all electricity in this country, 30 percent by the year 2020 has to come from renewable energy: solar, wind, biomass. And the third would be I would put a mandate that says that we are going to have a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2040. Mandates. Fines, to poluters, to power plants.


Giuliani: There is global warming. Human beings are contributing to it. I think the best answer to it is energy independence. We've got more coal reserves in the us than they have oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. If we find a way to deal with it and use it so it doesn't hurt the environment, we're going to find ourselves not contributing to global warming and also being more energy independent. I think we have to take another look at nuclear power. France is 80 percent nuclear. We're 20, but going down to 15. We haven't had a licensed nuclear power plant in 30 years. It has to be done carefully. But we haven't lost a life to nuclear power yet. We have wind, solar, hydroelectric, hybrid vehicles. All these things need to be increased - and an appropriate emphasis on conservation. You can't do it with any one of these things. You can't just do conservation. Otherwise you're not going to have growth.


Biden: I think Al Gore has done something really quite phenomenal. He has brought into the consciousness the reality of what is going to happen. Whether it's 2040, whether it's 2050, 2070. It's going to happen unless we change behavior. I literally would make an executive order saying the United States government will not purchase one single vehicle that didn't get 45 miles to the gallon. And would not - and as a fleet, all the vehicles we buy -- and would not build one single building that was not green. Whether I am in Iowa ... (inaudible) ... ethanol. They go "yeah, great for my state." I say "how many ethanol gas stations you got out here?" And they go like this. Like "no." There are not. So the second thing is you gotta build infrastructure. That the federal government has to be a catalyst for. The third thing I would do is I think you could when you do is announce to the nation that you're making the same kind of commitment, it sounds kind of corny. The same kind of commitment that Kennedy made about going to the moon.


Huckabee: I don't know. I mean, the honest answer for me, scientifically, is "I don't know." But here's one thing I do know, that we ought to not let this become this big political football and point of argument. We all ought to agree that we live on this planet as guests. I think Republicans have made a big mistake by not being more on the forefront of conservationism.

I consider myself a conservationist. I think we ought to have some cap and trade. It worked with acid rain. I think it could work with CO2 emissions. I think we ought to be out there talking about ways to reduce energy consumption and waste. And we ought to declare that we will be oil free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.

Frankly, it's a matter of national security to get to the point where we're not dependent upon oil coming from countries who, frankly, aren't very friendly to us.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.