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Democrats Sing Same Climate Song
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Democrats Sing Same Climate Song

Election 2008

Democrats Sing Same Climate Song
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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

Climate change has the world's attention. Al Gore has a Nobel Prize. Corporate America has plans to go green. But so far in the presidential campaigns, global warming barely stirs interest.

Here's NPR's Elizabeth Shogren.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Let's start with the Democrats. They are talking about global warming. But if you listen to the candidates, you might think there's an echo.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): We have to, first of all, cap greenhouse gasses.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I do support an economy-wide cap-and-trade system.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina; Presidential Candidate): We need to cap greenhouse gas pollution starting in 2010. We need to reduce it by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

Sen. CLINTON: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from the 1990 levels by 2050.

Sen. OBAMA: Eighty percent reduction by 2050.

(Soundbite of applause)

SHOGREN: The frontrunners are Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards. All want the same tough limits on greenhouse gas pollution. They want to sell the right to pollute to refineries, power plants and factories, and use the billions of dollars they collect to promote clean energy. The candidates even use similar rhetoric about global warming. Obama calls it a moral challenge that requires sacrifices. So does Edwards.

Mr. EDWARDS: The American people are ready for a president who calls on them to sacrifice and asks them to be patriotic about something other than war.

(Soundbite of applause)

SHOGREN: The Democratic candidates all use the issue to draw a stark contrast between themselves and President Bush. The president has rejected mandatory economy-wide cuts in greenhouse gasses.

The Sierra Club's Cathy Duvall says the consensus among Democrats explains why global warming hasn't gotten more attention in the campaign.

Ms. CATHY DUVALL (The Sierra Club): Because the candidates are all pretty much clustered around the same area, it doesn't end that being one of the issues that they focus on because they are looking for issues that can distinguish them.

SHOGREN: There are big differences among the Republicans. But most of the GOP candidates give global warming little attention because it's not a top priority of Republican voters. The one candidate who has laid out a clear climate change policy is Senator John McCain.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): It's real. We've got to address it. We can do it with technology, with cap and trade. And I'm confident that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren a cleaner, better world.

SHOGREN: McCain is not alone in favoring a cap-and-trade system. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee does too. But he hasn't given many details yet. He explained his position in a recent interview with CBS News.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas): I think that Republicans have made a big mistake by not being more on the forefront of conservation. I consider myself a conservationist. I think we ought to have some cap and trade.

Mr. GENE KARPINSKI (League of Conservation Voters): Unfortunately, the rest of the Republican candidates look more like George Bush, which is they finally acknowledge there's a problem, but they won't support solutions that make sense.

SHOGREN: That's Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group. The other Republican frontrunners talk more about energy security than global warming. Mitt Romney says he doesn't think America should start a mandatory program to reduce greenhouse gasses until China and India do the same. Romney is one of several GOP candidates who question how much people are to blame.

Former Senator Fred Thompson took it a step further. Before he officially joined the race, he aired a commentary, making fun of the fuss over climate change.

Mr. FRED THOMPSON (Former Republican Senator, Tennessee): This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.

SHOGREN: Since he became a candidate, Thompson has refused to lay out a climate change policy. Environmentalists say that since there's such a big contrast between the positions of most Republicans and the Democrats, as long as McCain doesn't get the GOP nomination, the issue is bound to get a lot more attention during the general election.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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