Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are worlds apart in their stances on human-caused climate change.
Trump has repeatedly expressed doubt in the science behind climate change, and his policy proposals reflect that doubt.
Clinton, on the other hand, has repeatedly said she agrees with the vast majority of scientists that human-caused climate change is real. Likewise, her proposed policies take measures to combat climate change.
Below we’ll outline the candidates’ stances and claims about climate change generally, and specific related topics, including: extreme weather, the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, a carbon tax, fracking, renewable energy and green buildings.
In doing so, we’ll explain how each ticket plans (or plans not) to combat what the American Association for the Advancement of Science calls a “growing threat to society.”
Global Warming: Real, Not a Hoax
Trump, speech in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Dec. 30, 2015: Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and the — a lot of it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.
Clinton, Democratic National Convention speech, July 28: I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real.
During all three presidential election debates, which totaled 4.5 hours, less than six minutes was spent discussing the candidates’ policies related to climate change.
But their differences on the subject are fundamental: Trump claims climate change is a hoax, and Clinton says it’s real.
As Clinton rightly pointed out during the first presidential debate, Trump also tweeted back in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
Trump’s denial of climate change has also led him to make false claims.
For example, on July 26, 2016, Trump told Bill O’Reilly at Fox News that “people” at the Copenhagen conference in 2009 were “sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax, and they were laughing at it,” adding that that’s why he “probably did” call climate change a hoax.
Trump is referring to the “Climategate” scandal, which we’ve written about before. This controversy involved leaked emails and other documents of climate researchers at the University of East Anglia in England in November 2009, less than a month before the Copenhagen climate conference.
The researchers did not call climate change a hoax in these emails. Climate skeptics claimed at the time that the emails revealed how climate scientists “deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals,” as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote in a Dec. 9, 2009, Washington Post op-ed.
However, as we wrote in April 2010, an independent international investigation set up by the University of East Anglia found no such wrongdoing or manipulation. “We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it,” the investigative report said.
Although he has denied the existence of climate change as a candidate, Trump has taken the position that global warming is real as a businessman.
Politico reported in May that Trump International Golf Links Ireland applied for a permit to build a sea wall to protect the Irish golf course from “‘global warming and its effects.’” The permit “explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure,” Politico adds.
Clinton, on the other hand, has consistently claimed she believes climate change is real, as she did during the first presidential debate.
Scientific evidence supports Clinton’s position that human-caused climate change is real. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that human changes to the planet, especially the emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, “are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Human-caused climate change is also considered real according to 97 percent of climate scientists, as we’ve written.
“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” says NASA.
A team of more than 300 experts at the U.S. Global Change research program are among that 97 percent.
“The burning of coal, oil, and gas, and clearing of forests have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40% since the Industrial Revolution, and it has been known for almost two centuries that this carbon dioxide traps heat,” the team explains in the Third National Climate Assessment report. The report adds, “Multiple lines of independent evidence confirm that [these] human activities are the primary cause of the global warming of the past 50 years.”
Trump’s Erroneous Claim About Extreme Weather
Trump, CNN “New Day,” Sept. 24, 2015: You know, look, it’s weather, and we have bad floods. … And frankly, it’s been that way for so long … weather changes and you have storms, and you have rain, and you have beautiful days. But I do not believe that we should imperil the companies within our country.
Clinton, speech in Miami, Oct. 11: Now, some will say, ‘We’ve always had hurricanes. They’ve always been destructive.’ And that’s true. But Hurricane Matthew was likely more destructive because of climate change.
Clinton is again more accurate here.
We always have had extreme weather such as destructive hurricanes, but scientists say global warming is expected to increase the magnitude and probability of cyclones, or hurricanes, and other extreme weather events.
But the level of certainty scientists have for each type of extreme weather event differs, a 2016 report by the National Academies of the Sciences explains. Different confidence levels result from the capabilities of climate models, the quality and length of the observational record, and the understanding of physical mechanisms pertaining to specific extreme weather events.
A rule of thumb: The more removed a type of event is from temperature changes, the less confident scientists are when tying that type of event to human-induced global warming.
For example, scientists are most confident when linking human-caused climate change to extreme heat and cold waves. These are weather events that directly relate to temperature change, and scientists have the best models, observational record and understanding of the physics behind these events, the report explains.
On the other hand, scientists have medium confidence when attributing droughts and extreme rainfall to climate change. Heavy rainfall, for example, “is influenced by a moister atmosphere, which is a relatively direct consequence of human-induced warming, though not as direct as the increase in temperature itself,” the report says.
It’s more difficult still to tie the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, or hurricanes, to climate change, the report adds. These storms are less directly related to changes in temperature. Scientists have less data on hurricanes of the past, which reduces their ability to make solid claims about long-term trends. But they do have some understanding of the physical mechanisms behind climate change that could bring about these storms.
New modeling techniques also have improved scientists’ confidence when attributing cyclone activity to climate change. “Tropical cyclones are projected to become more intense as the climate warms. There is considerable confidence in this conclusion, as it is found in a wide range of numerical models,” the report authors write.
As we explained in April 2015, the 2014 IPCC report points out that confidence when attributing tropical cyclones to human-caused climate change also differs by region. For example, “there is evidence for a ‘virtually certain’ — which means between 99 percent and 100 percent probability — ‘increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s’ in the North Atlantic basin,” we wrote.
All of these extreme weather changes “will continue to affect human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, coastal areas, and many other sectors of society, with increasingly adverse impacts on the American economy and quality of life,” experts on the U.S. Global Change research program say.
Poles Apart on the Paris Agreement
Trump, speech in Bismarck, North Dakota, May 26: President Obama entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accords – unilaterally, and without the permission of Congress. This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over … how much [energy] we use right here in America. … We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.
Clinton, Sciencedebate.org response, Sept. 13: My plan will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference — without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation.
Like their claims on the reality of climate change, Trump and Clinton’s positions on the Paris Agreement are poles apart.
The Paris Agreement aims to unify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such that global temperature rise stays “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
Among other policies, Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” includes canceling the Paris Agreement and stopping “all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”
Trump also claimed that the Paris “agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over … how much [energy] we use right here in America.” That’s false. Each country determines its own emission reduction targets.
Trump could abandon U.S. involvement in the Paris deal in several ways, legal experts told Climate Central, an environmental news website.
One option would be for Trump to wait until the very end of his first term to formally withdraw. The agreement will go into effect on Nov. 4, just four days before Election Day. After that, each country has to wait four years before officially pulling out of the deal.
But countries aren’t penalized for failing to adhere to their proposed emission cuts, as these “nationally determined” emission cuts are “voluntary.” As a result, the international agreement couldn’t prevent Trump from proceeding with his plan to rescind Obama’s Climate Action Plan, approve the Keystone Pipeline and revoke “unwarranted” restrictions on new drilling technologies if elected president, for example.
So Trump could also ignore the deal altogether. As the BBC reports, U.S. climate inaction could influence other major emitters, like China and India, to pull back on meeting their own emission reduction promises.
Last, Trump could potentially withdraw the U.S. from the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change without approval from Congress with only one year’s notice, experts told Climate Central. According to the Paris deal, this would also withdraw the U.S. from that agreement.
However, Trump’s past position on the Copenhagen conference runs counter to his current claims about the Paris deal.
Grist, an environmental news site, reported that Trump and three of his adult children – Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka – signed an open letter to President Obama urging the passage of legislation to combat climate change. The letter was published in the New York Times on Dec. 6, 2009, just before the climate conference in Copenhagen from Dec. 7 to Dec. 18, 2009.
The letter states, “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” The letter adds that investing in clean energy “will spur economic growth, create new energy jobs, and increase our energy security all while reducing the harmful emissions that are putting our planet at risk.”
Clinton, on the other hand, says she “will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference.”
Obama pledged to reduce the U.S.’s emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Likewise, Clinton says she “will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 relative to 2005 levels and put the country on a path to cut emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.”
Clinton claims she can achieve these goals by defending the Clean Power Plan, expanding clean energy production on public land, cutting the tax subsidies for oil and gas companies, and decreasing methane emissions by reducing leaks from new and existing natural gas sources, among other measures. We’ll discuss some of these policies in more detail in the following sections.
Controversy Over the Clean Power Plan
Trump, speech in New York, Sept. 15: I will eliminate all needless and job-killing regulations now on the books – and there are plenty of them. This includes … scrapping the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan.
Clinton, 10th Democratic debate, April 14: I have laid out a set of actions that build on what President Obama was able to accomplish, building on the Clean Power Plan, which is currently under attack by fossil fuels and the right in the Supreme Court.
Prior to the Clean Power Plan, no national legislation limited the amount of carbon dioxide power plants emitted into the atmosphere, which account for around 40 percent of the U.S.’s total emissions.
On Aug. 3, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions for existing power plants. When “fully in place in 2030, carbon pollution from the power sector will be 32 percent below 2005 levels,” says the EPA.
According to the New York Times, the Clean Power Plan “gave Mr. Obama the leverage to negotiate the Paris Agreement.”
However, on Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court placed a hold on the implementation of the plan based on requests of 27 states, including Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, as well as various companies.
In fact, on June 24, 2015, as governor of Indiana, Pence wrote a letter to Obama stating “Indiana will not comply” with the Clean Power Plan unless there is “significant improvement in the final rule.” Pence criticized the rule because he argued it would “raise electricity costs” and “impede economic growth.”
There is evidence to back up some of Pence’s claims.
The nonpartisan Energy Information Administration found that “[r]etail electricity prices are higher when the CPP is in place than when it is not, as the fuel and capital costs of complying with the rule by shifting to natural gas-fired generation, or by building new renewable capacity, are passed through to retail prices.”
Electricity prices will increase between 2 percent to 7 percent depending on region by 2030 if the plan is implemented compared with if it is not. By 2040, price levels range from 0 percent to 4 percent higher with the plan.
If implemented, the EIA also found the plan will reduce carbon emissions from the U.S. electric power sector by 35 percent in 2030 compared with 2005 levels.
But how do states meet the Clean Power Plan’s standards in the first place?
If implemented, the EPA would set emissions goals individually for each state, and the states would then choose the routes they want to take to meet those goals. Some states might choose to invest more in renewable energy, natural gas or nuclear power, while others might concentrate more on improving energy efficiency, for example. States would have to submit “final complete state plans” no later than Sept. 6, 2018. Along the way, states will also have to report their progress to the EPA.
“Targets differ across states because of each state’s unique mix of electricity-generation resources—and also because of technological feasibilities, costs, and emissions reduction potentials, all of which vary across the country,” explains the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Overall, the plan offers states flexibility in how states can both meet and report progress toward their emissions goals.
A Carbon Tax: Politically Lethal?
Trump, Twitter, May 13: I will not support or endorse a carbon tax!
Clinton, when asked by Sen. Bernie Sanders if she supports a carbon tax, April 14: I want to do what we can do to actually make progress in dealing with the [climate change] crisis. That’s exactly what I have proposed. And my approach I think is going to get us there faster without tying us up into political knots with a Congress that still would not support what you are proposing.
According to the World Bank, a carbon tax “refers to a tax directly linked” to greenhouse gas emissions that creates “incentives for emitters to shift to less greenhouse‐gas intensive ways of production and ultimately resulting in reduced emissions.”
On Sept. 22, Trump told an audience in Pittsburgh, “The platform produced by Hillary Clinton’s party this year also calls for a ‘price on carbon.'”
Trump is right. The Democratic Party’s platform does include a carbon tax. It says, “Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.”
But Clinton’s own plan currently does not include a tax of greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, emails recently released by WikiLeaks may provide insight into why this is the case, as Vox reported. Though yet to be verified by Clinton’s campaign, the emails include an exchange between Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and one of her advisers, Jake Sullivan, from January 2015.
“Extensive polling” conducted by the campaign showed that, after hearing the pros and cons of a carbon tax, 46 percent of people supported a carbon tax, Podesta told Sullivan in an email. In other emails, Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, allegedly said he was “a bit nervous about rushing to say [Clinton would] never support such a tax,” but that supporting one could also be “lethal” to her chance at the presidency.
Emails more recently released on Oct. 20 also showed the Clinton campaign considered “an aggressive carbon tax as a central pillar of her campaign’s climate agenda,” reported Environment & Energy Publishing.
The emails included a March 2015 memo sent by Pete Ogden, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, to Podesta, which, among other things, considered a “GHG Pollution Fee” of $42 per ton of GHG emissions.
The memo noted that household energy costs would rise by roughly $478 per year on average and gasoline prices may increase by around 40 cents per gallon between 2020 and 2030 with such a carbon tax. But it also said the revenues generated from the tax and converted into a rebate for taxpayers “more than cover the increase in energy costs for all households.”
But a carbon tax may face roadblocks in Congress. Even with Democrats in control of Congress, a House-approved carbon cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in 2010, when some Democrats broke with President Obama and the party’s congressional leaders.
The New York Times wrote that Podesta, “the architect of both the Obama and Clinton climate change plans,” crafted a plan for Clinton that seeks to reduce emissions without waiting for Congress to pass a carbon tax.
As for Trump, there’s not much to say on the topic of a carbon tax. Trump’s energy plan promises to spur economic growth and create jobs by repealing current measures to cut GHG emissions, not add new ones. It maintains that Obama’s “onslaught of regulations has been a massive self-inflicted economic wound.”
Fracking on Federal Land
Trump, speech in Pittsburgh, Sept. 22: Clinton wants to put the coal miners out of work, ban hydraulic fracking in almost all places, and extensively restrict and ban energy production on public lands and in most offshore areas. … We need an America-First energy plan. … This means opening federal lands for oil and gas production, opening offshore areas and revoking policies that are imposing unnecessary restrictions on innovative new exploration technologies.
Clinton, primary debate in Brooklyn, April 14: One of the bridge fuels [from coal to clean energy] is natural gas. … We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method that recovers gas and oil from shale, a type of rock. The technique involves drilling into the earth and injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, which releases oil and gas that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Fracking has caused a boom in oil and natural gas production in the U.S. But, when it comes to climate change, critics argue the expansion of fracking for natural gas has only postponed the move toward clean energy sources like wind and solar. Proponents say natural gas can act as a “bridge fuel” between coal and renewables.
Natural gas when burned emits about half the amount of carbon as coal. However, the production of natural gas also can lead to leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas. Methane is 28 to 36 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, “There are more than 100,000 oil and gas wells on federally managed lands. Of wells currently being drilled, over 90 percent use hydraulic fracturing.”
Trump, however, has criticized Clinton for claiming during the primary debate in Flint last March: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”
Clinton has said she doesn’t support fracking when (1) “any locality or any state is against it,” (2) “release of methane or contamination of water is present” and (3) fracking operations don’t “tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.”
But Clinton herself has admitted that the president doesn’t have much authority to ban fracking.
After the primary debate in Durham, New Hampshire, in February, a representative from 350 Action, an environmental group, asked Clinton, “With so much of the environmental community opposing fracking how do you expect to win over young people’s votes if you are still support fracking?”
“The states have a lot of authority with fracking,” Clinton responded. “I don’t think the president does, but what the [federal] government does have the authority to do is to impose very strict regulations.”
The questioner then asked her, “Perhaps banning extraction on public lands?” Clinton responded, “Yeah, that’s a done deal.” She added later, “That’s where the president is moving. No future extraction, I agree with that.”
But Clinton could have trouble even imposing regulations on fracking and even just on federal lands, given roadblocks President Obama has experienced.
In March, the Department of the Interior passed a final rule that addressed fracking well construction and chemical use on federal land. But the rule was overturned by one of Obama’s judicial appointees, Scott Skavdahl of the District Court of Wyoming, reported The Hill. “Congress has not delegated to the Department of Interior the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing” on federal lands or otherwise, Skavdahl said.
Still, the Clinton campaign states that Clinton would control fugitive methane emissions by ensuring “new natural gas pipelines are built to the highest standards” and repairing or replacing “thousands of miles of leaky pipes by the end of her first term,” if elected.
Trump, on the other hand, told an audience in Pittsburgh in September that he would expand natural gas and coal production on federal lands, adding “we will end the war on coal.”
But as the New York Times points out, it might be difficult for Trump to boost natural gas production while also saving the coal industry.
Fracking technology has led to an upswing in natural gas production, which decreased demand for coal. Natural gas is currently around 20 percent cheaper than coal. In 2015, natural gas surpassed coal as the U.S.’s largest source of electricity.
Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard, also told the Times, “If the Trump administration wanted to help coal, it could ban fracking. But he can’t have it both ways.”
Race to Renewables?
Trump, speech in Bismarck, North Dakota, May 26: We will get the bureaucracy out of the way of innovation, so that we can pursue all forms of energy. This includes renewable energies and the technologies of the future. It does include nuclear and wind and solar – but not to the exclusion of other forms of energy, and other forms of energy that right now are working much better. The government should not pick winners and losers.
Clinton, speech in Warren, Michigan, Aug. 11: Some country is going to be the clean energy super power of the 21st century and create millions of jobs and businesses. It’s probably going to be either China, Germany or America. I want it to be us.
According to the Energy Information Administration, “U.S. power plants used renewable energy sources, including water, wind, biomass wood and waste, geothermal, and solar, to generate about 13% of the electricity produced in the United States during 2015.” Hydroelectric power made up the largest share, but wind and solar energy production have also increased substantially in the past few years.
Trump has said his “energy policy will make full use of our domestic energy sources, including traditional and renewable energy sources,” so long as it allows the U.S. to “accomplish a complete American energy independence.”
While Trump has outlined policies to bolster fossil fuel production, he hasn’t specified any policies in favor of wind, solar or other renewable energies.
He has also criticized both solar and wind energy on numerous occasions.
For example, in November 2015 in Newton, Iowa – the state that produces the most wind energy, as a percentage of its total energy generation – Trump told an audience member he’s “fine with” a wind energy tax credit.
Trump added, “wind is a problem” because it’s “a very expensive form of energy.” But, as we found earlier this year, wind energy is cheaper than coal- or gas-powered energy in some parts of the country, particularly Iowa and Texas. On average nationwide, wind was more expensive than coal and gas in the second half of 2015, when Trump made his comment in Iowa, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But wind is now cheaper than coal, and more expensive than gas.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance provided us with prices for the second half of 2016: Gas is less expensive at $52 per megawatt hour compared with onshore wind at $56 per MWh in the U.S. on average. But coal is at $65 per MWh. Those numbers do not include government subsidies.
The EIA projects that the average rate for new combined cycle natural gas-fired plants entering service in 2018 will be around $48 per MWh. The unsubsidized rate for onshore wind farms for 2018 will be $51.9 per MWh. With subsidies, the rate for onshore wind drops to $34 per MWh.
Trump also has claimed wind farms in the U.S. “kill more than 1 million birds a year,” as we also wrote in June.
Reliable data are scarce, but current mean estimates range from 20,000 to 573,000 bird deaths per year. Research also suggests oil production kills the same, if not more, birds per year than wind farms.
In Fresno in May, Trump also told an audience, “I know a lot about solar. I love solar,” but there are “a lot of problems with it. One problem is it’s too expensive.”
Solar power is pricier than wind, and the EIA doesn’t project that the cost will go below natural gas in 2018. The EIA projects the cost for solar will be $71 per MWh without subsidies and $53.5 per MWh with subsidies in 2018. Bloomberg found that the cost of solar photovoltaic power in the U.S. on average was $72 or $79 per MWh in the second half of 2016, depending on whether the panels move to capture more sunlight.
Solar power received 27 percent of government subsidies and support in 2013, according to the EIA. Wind energy received the largest portion at 37 percent. However, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy also received federal subsidies and support at 6 percent, 4 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Clinton’s plan for renewables has two major tenets: (1) install more than half a billion solar panels across the country by the end of her first term and (2) generate enough clean renewable energy to power every American home with 10 years of taking office.
He explained that Clinton’s plan is beyond what the EIA currently projects for 2020, but its past predictions have “tended to underestimate solar growth.”
He also noted that if a Clinton administration can achieve her 2020 solar goal, it “would likely put the 2027 renewable energy goal within reach,” her second tenet.
Using the EIA’s numbers, Cohan points out that “residential electricity consumption will reach 1,400 billion kWh by 2027, with renewable energy generating 1,040 billion kWh if the Clean Power Plan is implemented.” If Clinton can manage to achieve her solar goal by 2020, that would “close about half of that gap, leaving seven years for more solar plus other sources like wind” to reach her 2027 target, which would be feasible, he said.
But Cohan also writes “achieving the solar target will depend on a series of initiatives that are only vaguely described” in Clinton’s plan.
These initiatives include grant funding for cities and states through her $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge, a Solar X-Prize for communities that “cut the red tape that slows rooftop solar installation times” and the expansion of renewable energy on public land and federal buildings.
“Costs for renewable energy tend to drop as more capacity is installed,” Cohan added. “This reflects not only economies of scale but also advances in technologies to meet growing demand.”
As evidence for this statement, Cohen cited a 2015 study published in the journal Energy Policy that found that solar costs drop roughly 23 percent each time capacity doubles. “Success can breed success,” he said.
Trump, speech in Fresno, May 27: I have a friend, he went into an … all LEED building … in other words, environmentally unbelievable. And he said, “Donald I feel so good, I just signed a lease with an all LEED building.” … And I said, “how is your vision?” He said, “my vision is good.” I said, “in three years it won’t be because you won’t have enough light to see.” … Then I said, “do you mind being freezing in the winter and hot as hell in the summer?” “Of course I do.” I said, “you will freeze your ass off in the winter and in the summer you will be a disaster.”
Clinton, HillaryClinton.com, as of Nov. 1: Inefficient buildings not only raise energy costs and increase pollution, but they are also less healthy to live in and less productive to work in. … As President, Clinton would set a goal to cut energy waste in American homes, schools, stores, municipal buildings, hospitals and offices by a third within ten years of taking office.
In addition to obtaining more energy from renewable and clean sources, another way to address climate change is to increase the country’s energy efficiency. Buildings account for 39 percent of the U.S. total energy consumption, more than either transportation or industry, making them one potential target for improving efficiency.
Clinton’s plan for advanced buildings includes various measures aimed at cutting “energy waste in American homes, schools, stores, municipal buildings, hospitals and offices by a third within ten years of taking office.” This goal will “help keep the United States at the forefront of tackling the climate challenge,” the campaign says.
Some of these measures include phasing down “fuel oil and propane to heat homes and businesses over the long term,” working “with companies like Zillow and Trulia to make expected energy cost information easily available to prospective [home] buyers” and expanding the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program for appliances “to include a broader range of models and products.”
As part of her $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge, Clinton says she will award grants to states, cities and rural communities to “overcome barriers” to improving energy efficiency in residential, public and commercial buildings. This could include adopting and enforcing better building energy codes, which have already reduced carbon “emissions by roughly 3 percent in terms of the projected national CO2 emissions in 2030,” says the U.S. Department of Energy.
As for Trump’s claims about faulty temperature control and lighting, research has shown that occupants of LEED buildings have the same, if not greater, workplace satisfaction than occupants of conventional buildings when it comes to lighting and temperature.
In 2013, National Research Council Canada published a paper in the journal Building Research & Information that compared the indoor environments of conventional and LEED-certified buildings in Canada and the U.S. The study found that there was “no difference” between the measured temperatures and “any physical measure” of lighting in LEED and conventional buildings.
Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.
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