Barry Rabe and climate change: the opinions of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls

April 19, 2019

While the field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates grows and the first primaries approach, one of the top issues for the field is climate change. Since his inauguration, President Trump has reversed Obama-era environmental policies, focused on deregulation of the oil and natural gas industry, and removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. As such, the Democratic candidates desperately strive to reverse course.

Yet, at the early stages of the 2020 elections, many of the candidates propound vague solutions or support for the Green New Deal. Regardless of one potential solution or the other, any comprehensive climate change policy faces numerous obstacles. As the Ford School’s Professor Barry Rabe succinctly puts it in Lisa Friedman and Maggie Astor’s April 18, 2019 article in the New York Times: “One of the reasons we’ve accomplished so little in the United States on climate policy…is that it’s really hard.”

One challenge, Rabe points out, is that “More than half our states produce some amount of oil and gas,” and all states utilize both—not to mention coal. Any plan to eliminate or significantly curtail oil, gas, and coal production and consumption would therefore prove to be contentious.

As such, the New York Times distributed a survey to all 18 declared Democratic candidates in an effort to clarify their positions and proposals. While all candidates expressed support for the Paris Climate Accords and reinstituting Obama-era policies, candidates began to diverge on their support for specific policy recommendations.

Included in the survey were questions regarding a federal carbon tax, new regulations, the future of nuclear energy, and the economic hardship that would follow any suggested proposal.

Read the full story including responses of the Democratic candidates here.

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy and the director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Ford School. He is also the Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy and holds courtesy appointments in the Program in the Environment, the Department of Political Science, and the School for Environment and Sustainability.