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Waiting to be impressed by the candidates — and the media

By Bill Becker

"Waiting to be impressed by the candidates — and the media"

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The Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) recently completed the first of four polls it has commissioned from Harris Interactive to track public opinion about the presidential candidates and global climate change.

The results so far (here): Nearly half of the people likely to vote in the presidential election aren’t sure which of the candidates has the strongest policy. Twenty-two percent think it’s Obama; 21 percent think it’s Clinton; and 8 percent think it’s McCain. Forty-nine percent have no idea.

In other words, a big part of the voting population is waiting to be impressed. Their votes are a prize waiting to be won.

It’s not that the “don’t knows” are indifferent to the issue. The poll found that 63 percent of likely voters believe it’s important for the next president to address climate change soon after taking office. Forty-one percent believe that presidential action is “extremely” or “very” important.

Instead, the findings seem to suggest that voters are confused about the candidates’ climate positions because the candidates aren’t talking enough about the issue. As Newsday‘s opinion staff put it (here), the poll results are “pretty solid evidence that the candidates all need to talk more about the little matter of saving the planet, and spend a lot less time on gotcha issues that mean nothing.”

[JR: Who is it really that is spending all their time on the gotcha issues that mean nothing -- the candidates, or the media? "... in the debates in which five Sunday-morning television anchors -- George Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Wallace and Bob Schieffer -- have participated (17 in total) and in their major interviews with the candidates (176 in total) only eight of the 2,372 questions asked have mentioned global warming or climate change."]

Harris polled more than 2,000 adults in the survey, weighted to reflect the U.S. population. PCAP and Harris plan to conduct the next three polls between now and the election to track how the results change.

We don’t know what the candidates’ polls are telling them, but this poll suggests that when people are asked about climate change directly, rather than ranking it among two dozen other issues, there is clear concern and clear support for the next president to tackle it soon. It’s time for the candidates to talk about it. [And the media!]

– Bill Becker

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11 Responses to Waiting to be impressed by the candidates — and the media

  1. After your recent post, I want to vote for Newt Gingrich, a man with a plan to build 1400 nuclear reactors and actually DO SOMETHING about US carbon dioxide emissions!

  2. Earl Killian says:

    Kirk, building reactors does nothing about CO2 emissions unless the candidate has a plan to close coal plants. That’s tricky, because no investor (stock or bond) wants their investment suddenly valued at zero. Does McCain have what it takes to navigate such treacherous waters? I think not.

  3. Joe says:

    Sorry, Kirk. He’s got no plan for action. He’s just got rhetoric aimed at stopping the rest of us from getting anything done.

  4. Kirk, building reactors does nothing about CO2 emissions unless the candidate has a plan to close coal plants.

    Agreed, but TVA has 15 GW of coal plants that they have to close down soon (in the next 10-15 years). I’ve tried to pitch that thorium is the way to do this with the least pain and suffering to the rate payer and the grid:

    http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/2007/04/how-tva-could-go-fossil-free.html

    http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/2007/04/letter-to-tva.html

  5. Joe says:

    Kirk: “15 GW of coal plants that they have to close down soon”
    I’ll believe that when I see it.

    And don’t forget that most of the 100 GWs of nuclear running today in this country will have to be shut down by 2050.

    So we’d need 100 GWs replacement + 50 GWs for Demand growth ( if we don’t get serious about efficiency) built by 2050 just to keep nuclear at 20% (and that’s assuming we don’t make a big transition to plug ins, which we will).

    Plus I don’t see how it’s possible that a power source that is complicated from both a technological and regulatory perspective that does not have a single commercial facility in existence today could be generating many cost-effective kwhs before 2020.

    P.S. New coal now costs >$5000/kw.

  6. Susan K says:

    Clinton’s SEC reporting requirement would shut down coal plants because once publicly traded corps have to report to the SEC what their climate change loss risks are, they will avoid climate change risk.

    Like they now pursue profitable over all other consideration because they have to report risk of loss.

  7. Plus I don’t see how it’s possible that a power source that is complicated from both a technological and regulatory perspective that does not have a single commercial facility in existence today could be generating many cost-effective kwhs before 2020.

    Are you talking about light-water reactors or liquid-fluoride thorium reactors? LFTRs are far, far simpler and safer than LWRs.

  8. Plus I don’t see how it’s possible that a power source that is complicated from both a technological and regulatory perspective that does not have a single commercial facility in existence today could be generating many cost-effective kwhs before 2020.

    Well, I can’t make you believe something if you don’t want to believe it, but I would welcome you to learn more about the technology and make your own judgments. It’s very different from light-water reactor technology, though, so be careful in making too close a comparison. Join our discussion forum, read the papers, ask questions…

  9. Mike says:

    John McCain has announced plans for a climate change tour. If he makes this a top priority, I will support him. I’ve always said to myself that I will support whichever candidate, regardless of party, takes the strongest approach to this issue. I don’t see either Democratic candidate saying much about climate change. What’s everyone else’s thoughts on this?

    http://www.examiner.com/blogs-73-Yeas_and_Nays~y2008m5d9-McCain-planning-climate-change-tour