Where Do The American Presidential Candidates Stand On Science Issues?

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Kristy Hamilton 13 Apr 2016, 21:04

The 2016 presidential election season is well underway, with verbal barbs being slung left, right, and center. But where do the presidential candidates stand on issues of science policy?

Below we have compiled the candidates’ stands on issues of climate change, NASA funding, vaccinations, and GMOs.

Note that this is by no means a comprehensive overview of American politics, the presidential candidates, or the science they support. It is simply a glimpse into the candidates’ positions, which will hopefully spark further inquiry and discussion.


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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Quote: "I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change.”

Climate change is “an urgent threat” and the “defining challenge of our times.” As such, Hillary Clinton plans to slash carbon pollution via two bold national goals and the launch of the Clean Energy Challenge. This means the installation of more than half a billion solar panels by the end of her first term and the generation of enough renewable energy for every home in America within 10 years. The Clean Energy Challenge will incentivize scientific innovation through grants and competitions, provide awards for communities that achieve clean energy goals, and transform the energy grid of states, cities and rural communities.

Senator Ted Cruz

Quote: “According to the satellite data, there has been no significant global warming for the past 18 years.”

That’s a clear no-go for climate change action. Of the Republican presidential candidates, Ted Cruz is perhaps the most vocal about his disbelief in climate change. This is despite the fact that climate scientists have refuted his so-called satellite data evidence. Their rebuttal points to his selective choice of data: Cruz starts his period of comparison at a temperature spike in 1997 – during an El Niño weather event – and thus skews the following data trend to seem insignificant. If a long-term trend is taken into consideration, his point falls by the wayside. 

A transcript from his climate science hearing can be read here and a video of the event viewed here.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Quote: “It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy.”

Bernie Sanders not only believes in climate change, he believes it is the "single greatest threat" facing our planet. As such, Sanders advocates immediate action away from fossil fuels and a swift transition into sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal. To do this, he proposes the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act, which provides benefits to workers shifting livelihoods from dirty fuel industries to clean energy projects. In addition, his legislation would create a clean energy workforce of 10 million by 2030. 

For more information, check out his page here.

Donald Trump

Quote: “I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change.”

Simply put: He believes climate change is fake. The 97 percent of climate scientists that say warming trends are worrying are wrong. Instead, it is “just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money,” he said

His website does not have a page devoted to this issue, therefore his position has been revealed through tweets and interviews.

In 2013, he tweeted: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax! 

He has little else to say on the matter.




Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Quote: "I really, really do support the space program.”

One good reason for her support: asteroids and comets, specifically near-Earth objects (NEOs). With more than 13,000 NEOs detected in our Solar System that range in size from 1 meter (3 feet) to 32 kilometers (20 miles), hazardous NEO detection is something that NASA – and Hillary Clinton – take seriously.

She also believes the space program is a “good investment” as it promotes scientific and technological innovation, noting the economic and societal benefits it brings. Exactly how much funding NASA should receive, however, is not clear.

Senator Ted Cruz

Quote: “One of the real problems with the Obama administration is they’ve de-emphasized space exploration. They’ve de-emphasized the hard sciences, and they’re diverting more and more of the NASA budget to political agendas like studying global warming instead of fulfilling the core mission of NASA.”

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness (which oversees NASA), Ted Cruz can’t not have a stance on the issue. He believes NASA should focus on space exploration and not Earth Science programs that monitor climate change. 

While he believes in international cooperation, he notes that America should also prioritize independence: “It is imperative that America has the capability to get to the space station without the assistance of the Russians,” Cruz said. “The Commercial Crew Program is critical to restoring this capability.” 

To increase American space independence, Cruz advocates decreasing NASA’s Earth Science funds and ramping up its space exploration budget. 

Senator Bernie Sanders

Quote: “I am supportive of NASA not only because of the excitement of space exploration, but because of all the additional side benefits we receive from research in that area.”

In general, Sanders supports NASA funding, but perhaps not to the degree of backing it currently gets. Since the 1990s, he has voted to decrease NASA's funding in favor of financing social issues.

Donald Trump

Quote: “You know, space is actually being taken over privately, which is great,” Trump said. “It is being taken over by a lot of private companies going after space, and I like that maybe even better, but it’s very exciting.”

All the presidential candidates are a bit murky on exactly how much funding NASA should receive, but none more so than Trump, who tends to shrug off the question. However, he has said that he favors the idea of space privatization. He also seems to hint at decreasing NASA’s budget: “Right now we have bigger problems,” he said, with money better spent elsewhere.




Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Quote: “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids.”

That pretty sums up Clinton’s position: vaccines save lives. Since 1993, Clinton has advocated for children to get vaccinated, with the Vaccines for Children program her first foray into the highly charged arena. For more than two decades, she has stood in support of vaccinations, and in 2007 proposed a legislative plan to back autism research and advocacy (note: she does not link the two issues together). 

Senator Ted Cruz

Quote: “Children, of course, should be vaccinated.”

Cruz is vocal in his commitment to vaccinations, keeping the message plain and simple: His own daughters have been vaccinated and so should every parent’s children. However, he believes the decision for whether vaccinations should be mandatory is a state issue, with states allowed to make exemption clauses for good faith religious convictions.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Quote: “Vaccination has worked for many, many years.”

Sanders said that while he respects the desire of families to have control over the health of their children, when that decision affects the lives of other parent’s kids, the problem no longer becomes a personal issue but a public one. Thus, vaccinations cannot be made on a parent-by-parent basis. Instead, it must be reinforced on a societal scale to protect the general public.

Donald Trump

Quote: “I am being proven right about massive vaccinations – the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.” 

Trump believes in vaccinations – sort of – just in small, spread out doses over a longer period of time. He believes that vaccinations and autism are linked, with the quantity of vaccinations “pumped” into children as the main cause.

It should be noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are explicit in their vaccination views: There is no link between vaccines and autism. Instead, a combination of factors, including genetics and brain abnormalities, are the primary contributors to the condition. 




Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Quote: “I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record.” 

Hillary Clinton stands in favor of genetically modified foods (GMOs), believing science and agriculture can co-exist to reduce global hunger. She has also noted public perceptions of GMOs, stating that while “genetically modified” sounds “Frankensteinish,” when stated in other terms such as drought-resistant, the benefits are clear and the fear factor diminished. She specifically notes Africa, where drought-resistant seeds have fed hungry bellies and saved lives. 

In regards to U.S. labeling laws for GM foods, she has said efforts should be made “to move toward labeling and to try to encourage companies to use technology like bar codes and other techniques online.”

Senator Ted Cruz

Quote: “People who decide that's what they want, they can pay for it already. But, we shouldn't let anti-science zealotry shut down the ability to produce low cost, quality food for billions across the globe.”

Cruz stands in support of GMOs. He points to the bounty of benefits they have provided people and farms across the globe. In line with this, he vows to be a strong ally of genetically modified foods, and says organic food is always an option for those who choose otherwise.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Quote: “I believe that when a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child.” 

Sanders believes states should require GM labels for food and beverages that contain genetically modified ingredients. In reference to a recently failed bill that would have prevented states from requiring GM food labels, he said: “Today’s vote was a victory for the American people over corporate interests.”

Donald Trump

Apart from a derogatory tweet about Iowa and Monsanto's GM corn, Trump has said little on the matter.


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