We Graded the 2016 Presidential Candidates on Climate Change & Some Didn't Do So Hot

While we really should be celebrating the earth every day, spring is usually the time of year we really pull it together -- we've got fresh flowers, fresh air, and Earth Day all guilting us into caring a little more than we have been. So with that in mind, we figured it'd be a good time to catch up with the candidates and see where they stand with the earth right now -- who's on her good side, and who's setting him- or herself up to be smote by falling rocks and branches?


We're grading each of the five candidates based on public comments they've made in the past year or so and on promises they've made for their potential presidencies. If anyone can submit photo proof of them, like, burning trees or dumping poison in the ocean, we'll consider that, too. Nothing of that sort yet, but stay tuned.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie really nailed it with this one solid tweet:

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He also has an anti-fracking background and a strong "get your sh*t together, America" attitude about the whole thing. We're withholding an A+ because for all his gesticulation and claimed need for "bold action," we're still not sure how actionable his plan actually is. We need more hows, fewer whats, and items that might actually make it through a conservative Congress. But we do like the sound of this:

  • "Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." --November 2015 Democratic debate (extreme, but maybe true?)
  • "[Climate change] is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren." --October 2015 Democatic debate 
  • "Climate change is the greatest threat facing the planet." --August 2015 stump speech 

Donald Trump

Similar to Bernie, Trump has one stellar tweet that essentially sums up his entire platform:

Trump loses points for his insistence that climate change is not a problem worth worrying about, but keeps himself from failing with his accidental acknowledgment that global warming is, in fact, real.

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Some quotes:

  • "I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons." --March 2016 to the Washington Post 
  • "I consider climate change to be not one of our big problems ... You look at China, they're doing nothing about it. Other countries are doing nothing about it. It's a big planet." --September 2015 on MSNBC's Morning Joe  
  • "So Obama is talking about all of this with the global warming and ... a lot of it is a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a money-making industry, okay?" --December 2015 campaign rally

Hillary Clinton

Hillary, for her part, has the economic angle on lockdown.

She's adopted a very reasonable and respectable attitude about the whole thing, insisting that it's a problem we need to work with the rest of the world to fix -- and not one we need to sacrifice the economy for.

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  • "We do have to invest in resilience and mitigation while we are trying to cut emissions and make up for the fact that this is clearly man-made and man-aggravated." --March 2016 Democratic debate 
  • "You don't have to be a scientist to take on the urgent challenge that threatens us all. You just have to be willing to act." --July 2015 campaign video 
  • "All countries and all people are responsible for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. But countries like the United States have a particular role. We are rich, powerful, and blessed with many advantages. We must lead the charge." --September 2015 op-ed in the National Catholic Reporter 

John Kasich

Kasich's as sick of the "climate change isn't real" narrative as the best of 'em, and while he doesn't seem to care enough to tweet about it or make any plans to fix it, he does care enough to trash Donald Trump about it:

Ted Cruz

Ted "It's a Hoax" Cruz does not think that climate change is real, and therefore he does not believe we should take any steps to combat it. His entire theory is based on a claim that satellites have recorded no rise in global temperature, despite nearly every expert he's spoken to explaining why this might be incorrect. Let's explore:

  • "Satellite data shows there has been no significant recorded warming. None ... Climate change is being driven by politicians who want more control over our lives." --June 2015 interview with Yahoo and Katie Couric

  • "Climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory for a big government politician who wants more power. Why? Because it is a theory that can never be disproven." --December 2015 interview with NPR

  • "I'm saying the data and facts don't support it." --August 2015 Koch brothers donor summit


Images via (left to right) Pacific Press/Corbis; James Colburn/Demotix/Corbis; Pacific Press/Corbis; Ron Sachs/Corbis; James Colburn/Demotix/Corbis

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