Special Report: The Presidential Election

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama state their positions on some of the key conservation and environmental issues facing the United States today

10-01-2008 // NWF Staff

THE CANDIDATES STATE THEIR POSITIONS

THE ELECTION ON NOVEMBER 4 provides us with an opportunity not only to participate in America's democratic process, but also to provide guidance to our leaders and help set our nation's priorities. As a lover of nature and wildlife, you can be counted on to look beyond the stump speeches and television commercials, and to peer deeper into the records and positions of the candidates for all offices to gauge their level of commitment and leadership on such crucial concerns as confronting global warming, reconnecting our children with the natural world and protecting wildlife habitat for future generations.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the National Wildlife Federation is not permitted by law to endorse, support or oppose candidates for public office. However, to help you make an informed decision, we can provide unbiased information on the positions of the major presidential candidates (those who receive more than 10 percent support in national opinion polls): Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. We offered both the opportunity to answer the same questions on some key conservation issues, and we asked them to limit each answer to no more than 200 words. The following unedited responses to our questions provide an opportunity for you to learn more about their policies and plans.

 

JOHN McCAIN

Q—National Wildlife Federation members love spending time in America's great outdoors, and they are seeing major climate impacts in our forests, rivers, coastal areas and other landscapes. Both you and your opponent have spoken of the need for action to address global warming. As president, what steps will you take through executive action, and what kind of legislation will you seek, to confront global warming?

Photo of John McCain A—The issue of climate change is one of the most important issues facing our nation and the world today. Accordingly, I believe that the next president of the United States, working with Congress, has an obligation to act to establish a comprehensive cap-and-trade system that will use market forces to allow the United States to transition into a new low-carbon regime while supporting our national economic goals. The environmental and economic threat posed by climate change is enormous, as are the stakes of how well we deal with the problem. Clearly, the quality of our response to this challenge will heavily influence the safety, security and prosperity of our country for many decades to come. Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. This problem cannot be solved by the United States alone, nor can it be solved without our leadership. A responsible international effort is essential if the serious problem of global climate change is to be tackled properly and without placing an unfair burden on our country. This will require leadership by the United States, and as president, I will see that we provide it.

Q—Our nation's water resources are increasingly threatened by many factors, including growth, development and climate alterations. If elected, how would you manage the nation's land and water resources?

A—There are serious threats to our water resources in many areas of the country. From drought in the Southwest to protecting the Great Lakes, both the federal government and local governments will have to deal with a number of water issues in the years to come. The Clean Water Act is one of our most successful environmental laws. It has allowed the United States to protect a number of important aquatic resources, while protecting water quality. Wetlands are a vital component of our natural aquatic ecosystems and should be recognized as such. Among other benefits, they play an important role in mitigating floods, provide key habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, and naturally purify waters around them. As president, I will work to develop a wetlands and water resources policy that provides necessary protection of our aquatic resources, builds strong and lasting partnerships, and respects local conditions and needs.

Q—Existing law requires an act of Congress before oil and gas exploration or development could proceed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, our nation's largest wildlife refuge. What is your position on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands?

A—I do not support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at this time. Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the ANWR, we called it a "refuge" for a reason. So long as we have alternatives to meet our own energy needs, we must protect the environment of this unique reserve and preserve it as a petroleum reserve for our children and grandchildren.

Q—The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pro-jects that more than 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species worldwide face an increasingly high risk of extinction if we fail to act on climate change. Are there any specific policies and efforts that you would initiate as president to help wildlife survive global warming?

A—As witnessed by the effects of climate change on the polar bear population, it is clear that global warming is affecting many aspects of our environment, including our wildlife. It is important to address these concerns while implementing a strong cap-and-trade system to start mitigating the overall effects of global warming on our planet. As president, I would support reforms to the Endangered Species Act that maintain strong and responsible protection for threatened and endangered species, and promote species recovery while bringing greater levels of cooperation, efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the effort. I believe that part of this effort must include achieving greater levels of coordination among federal, state and local agencies, and working proactively and cooperatively with private landowners to protect habitat in a way that enhances species while respecting property rights.

Q—If you are elected, what specific energy plans and policies would your administration put forward?

A—I believe that it is imperative to expand and diversify our energy sector in the coming years. I have proposed a comprehensive national energy plan, the Lexington Pro-ject, that will achieve strategic independence from foreign oil, expand the use of renewable energy sources, increase the focus on energy efficiency, expand our use of zero-emission nuclear power, and support the automobile industry building cars that don't require gasoline.

We must approach our increase in energy needs by encouraging new advancements in energy technology while harnessing proven, abundant energy sources in a way that recognizes the need to lessen the impacts on our environment. Through an expansion of our use of nuclear power, clean coal technologies, and renewable energies such as solar, wind and hydro, I believe that the United States can achieve an energy future that is not dependent on the whims of other nations and doesn't further contribute to global climate change. To this end, the Lexington Project eliminates our dependence on foreign sources of oil in part through a tax credit for zero-emissions cars, with the maximum credit of $5,000 adjusted downward depending on CO2 emissions, and a $300 million prize for developing the next generation electric car battery.

Q—In today's hectic, computerized world, America's children are less inclined to get outdoors to play or enjoy the wonders and beauty of nature. What outdoor experiences or adventures did you have as a child that might help shape your policies, if elected, to encourage today's future generations of children to enjoy the natural world?

A—Our National Park System, our national forests, our seashores, and our state and local parks offer a huge array of outdoor opportunities. Like so many Americans, I love our parks because their diversity, beauty and timelessness feed the soul and inspire the spirit. They are a vital link to the larger forces of creation and the handiwork of our Creator. I have had the pleasure of spending a great deal of time at the Grand Canyon in my home state of Arizona, and enjoyed the privilege of working many years to protect the park, preserve its character and enhance the experience that its visitors deserve. As an individual, I find our parks to be a source of great personal joy and inspiration; as a national leader, they are a cause that I've been proud to serve throughout my life in public service, as they will be during my presidency, and the rest of my life.

Q—If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?

A—If I were an animal I think I'd like to be a jaguar.

 

BARACK OBAMA

Q—National Wildlife Federation members love spending time in America's great outdoors, and they are seeing major climate impacts in our forests, rivers, coastal areas and other landscapes. Both you and your opponent have spoken of the need for action to address global warming. As president, what steps will you take through executive action, and what kind of legislation will you seek, to confront global warming?

Photo of Barack ObamaA—Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. I support implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. My cap-and-trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned. A small portion of the receipts generated by auctioning allowances ($15 billion per year) will be used to support the development of clean energy and energy efficiency. All remaining receipts will be used for rebates and other transition relief to ensure that families and communities are not adversely impacted by the transition to a new energy, low-carbon economy.

I will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As president, I will also immediately take steps to ensure that my administration and the federal government lead the way in terms of improving energy efficiency and consumption of renewable energy. My energy plan calls for all new federal buildings to be zero-emissions by 2025 and I will ensure that the entire White House fleet is converted to plug-ins as security permits within my first year in office.

Q—Our nation's water resources are increasingly threatened by many factors, including growth, development and climate alterations. If elected, how would you manage the nation's land and water resources?

A—Having lived near Lake Michigan for 20 years, I appreciate the need to protect our nation's waters and cosponsored legislation to protect and restore the Great Lakes. I also have fought for programs to improve water quality in our rivers, streams and lakes generally. The American West faces a serious water crisis and the federal government must help local communities conserve water by promoting improved technology for water conservation and efficiency, wastewater treatment, and voluntary water banks. Since cosponsoring the Illinois Wetlands Protection Act, I have fought to preserve wetlands and support a broad range of federal programs, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Wetlands Reserve Program.

Because most land is privately owned, private landowners are the principal stewards of America's land and water. I have long supported conservation programs helping landowners with sustainable environmental planning and best land management practices. As president, in addition to protecting federal public lands, I will put an unprecedented level of emphasis on the conservation of private lands, including increased funding for the Conservation Security Program and the Conservation Reserve Program and creating additional incentives for private landowners to protect and restore wetlands, grasslands, forests and other wildlife habitat.

Q—Existing law requires an act of Congress before oil and gas exploration or development could proceed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, our nation's largest wildlife refuge. What is your position on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands?

A—I strongly reject drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because it would irreversibly damage a protected national wildlife refuge. I will ensure that energy development on federal lands is done responsibly and protects valuable fish and wildlife habitat.

We need a new vision for conservation that both protects our existing publicly owned lands while dramatically expanding investments in protecting and restoring forests, grasslands and wetlands across America. As president, I will repair the damage done to our national parks by inadequate funding and emphasize the protection and restoration of our national forests. I will lead efforts to acquire and conserve new parks and public lands, focusing on ecosystems such as the Great Plains and Eastern forests, which do not yet have the protection they deserve. I support protection of roadless areas to keep over 58 million acres of national forests pristine.

Q—The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that more than 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species worldwide face an increasingly high risk of extinction if we fail to act on climate change. Are there any specific policies and efforts that you would initiate as president to help wildlife survive global warming?

A—I recognize that global warming is real, is happening now and poses a real threat to America's fish, wildlife and natural habitats, and to the lifestyles and enjoyment of all wildlife enthusiasts. I support proposals endorsed by dozens of national conservation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, to devote significant resources to help ensure that fish and wildlife survive the impacts of climate change.

I am also a long-time supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps state and local governments acquire and protect important habitats needed by wildlife to survive climate change, and have supported more money for the fund every year that I have been in the U.S. Senate. I also support restoring coastal marine fish habitat damaged by sea level rise, hurricanes and coastal development. Finally, I support maintaining the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and think the Act is fundamentally sound.

Q—If you are elected, what specific energy plans and policies would your administration put forward?

A—Under my energy plan, America will become 15 percent more energy efficient by 2020, since it is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to conserve energy and use less oil. My plan invests $150 billion in a clean energy fund to help create the fuel-efficient cars and alternative sources of energy of the future, paid for by ending tax breaks for oil companies and putting a price on carbon pollution--reducing our global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050.

We will double our fuel mileage standards over the next 20 years and invest in modernizing and in bringing the most promising clean-energy technologies into the marketplace, including plug-in hybrid batteries that will help bring 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles that get up to 150 miles per gallon on the road by 2015. We must make these investments to ensure the "green" jobs of the future are created in the United States.

My plan requires that by 2012, 10 percent of our electricity will come from renewable sources like solar and wind. We will produce 2 billion gallons of advanced cellulosic biofuels by 2013 and invest in finding cleaner ways to use coal and safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste.

Q—In today's hectic, computerized world, America's children are less inclined to get outdoors to play or enjoy the wonders and beauty of nature. What outdoor experiences or adventures did you have as a child that might help shape your policies, if elected, to encourage today's and future generations of children to enjoy the natural world?

A—The places of my youth profoundly influenced my understanding of the environment: Hawaii gave me an abiding affection for nature's beauty, while Indonesia showed me the environmental degradation that can occur when greed is left unchecked. We need to preserve our parks, forests, farms and wilderness because they are beautiful and deserve our protection, but also because without these places, our children will become more sedentary. I also believe we need to improve the built environment in our cities and communities to promote more healthy lifestyles, which is why I have sponsored the Healthy Communities Act and the Healthy Places Act in the U.S. Senate.

Having been raised by a single parent, I understand the challenges parents face in providing our children with all the opportunities we wish for them, including experiencing and learning to care for the natural world. In the end, it's about our children, and the greatest influence on me is my oldest daughter, Malia, who has asthma. Because of her, I have an enduring personal commitment to cleaner air.

Q—If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?

A—Americans love wildlife and I'm no exception. Pets are beloved companions for many, and Michelle and I have promised our daughters a dog when the campaign is over and we can properly care for it. Healthy wildlife are critical components of healthy ecosystems and the love of wildlife provides a deep connection to the natural world.

 
         
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