Dear EarthTalk: Where do the leading presidential candidates stand on the
issue of climate change and other environmental issues? -- Max S., Seattle, WA
The outcome of the 2008 presidential election could very well have a big
impact on a wide range of environmental issues, especially climate change.
All of the Democratic candidatesHillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards,
Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinichsupport reducing carbon dioxide emissions
nationally upwards of 80 percent by 2050 in order to stave off global warming.
Likewise, each would like to see fuel efficiency standards for cars and light
trucks raised to at least 40 miles per gallon within the next few decades.
Meanwhile, only one of the major Republican contenders, John McCain, has even
articulated a position on the issue of global warming, with most favoring
expanding our base of greenhouse gas-spewing coal-fired power plants.
As for specific track records, Clinton has an impressive record of
introducing pro-environment legislation into Congress, and for her time in the
Senate scores a 90 (out of 100) on green voting from the nonprofit, non-partisan
League of Conservation Voters (LCV). Obama is newer to the politics of the
environment, but scored a 96 for his two years in the Senate from LCV, and has
garnered kudos from environmental leaders for the aggressive climate and energy
plan he unveiled in October 2007.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants to launch a Works Green Administration
similar to the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression, only this
time to benefit the environment through the development of alternative energy
technologies and infrastructures. Bill Richardson, who served as Secretary of
Energy under Bill Clinton and more recently as governor of New Mexico, wants to
be the energy president, and has an 82 lifetime rating from LCV to back it up.
He has proposed the most ambitious carbon reduction plan of any of the
candidates (90 percent by 2050). John Edwards was the first candidate to make
his campaign carbon neutral in March 2007, and greens consider him perhaps the
most progressive of all the Democrats on the climate issue.
On the Republican side, the environmental bright spots are few and far
between. McCain is really the only choice with any declared concern for the
environment. In 2003 he co-sponsored the first Senate bill aimed at mandatory
economy-wide reductions. While the bill didnt garner enough votes to pass, it
set the stage for future iterations that could put the U.S. on par with European
nations as leaders in the fight to cut carbon emissions. McCain is also the only
Republican candidate specifically opposed to drilling for oil in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge.
Mike Huckabee scores some points with greens for his willingness to consider
a specific increase in automotive fuel efficiency standards and for his
(limited) embrace of alternative energy. Mitt Romney is willing to consider a
cap on emissions, but only if enacted on a global basis (including China and
India, that is). The remaining Republicans (Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Ron
Paul) have best been non-committal on climate change and environmental issues in
CONTACT: For more detailed information on specific candidates positions and
track records on environmental issues, check out the League of Conservation
Voters Voter Guide,
Dear EarthTalk: Most of us know how to recycle paper, plastic and glass, but
how do we find out about recycling the many other items we use that eventually
break or die out, such as light bulbs, disposable batteries, portable
electronics, and so on? -- Elizabeth Lauer, via e-mail
Its true that recycling items other than paper, plastic and glass is still
no easy task. But if youre committed to unloading something without adding it
to a landfill, a little research can go a long way. Fortunately there are some
great resources out there to help.
One of the best is a May 2006 article published in E The Environmental
Magazine by Sally Deneen entitled How to Recycle Practically Anything. Besides
debunking myths about the ineffectiveness of municipal recycling programs,
Deneen outlines where and how to recycle dozens of different types of household
items not typically picked up by the recycling truck at your curbside.
Regarding compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)which shouldnt be thrown in
the trash as they contain trace amounts of the toxic heavy metal mercuryDeneen
recommends first checking with your local household hazardous waste disposal
facility to see if they will take them for recycling. If not, many hardware
stores will take back spent CFLs. If none of these options pans out, a free
online listing of companies that recycle CFLs can be found at the lampecycle.org
As for disposable batteries, Deneen says they, too, can usually be dropped
off at municipal hazardous waste facilities, where they will be disassembled and
their parts recycled for use in other products. If such facilities in your area
wont take them, some local or national retailers (such as Walgreens in some
areas and Batteries Plus nationwide) mayjust call and ask. Another option is to
pay for the privilege by sending them to Battery Solutions, a mail-order company
that will recycle them for 85 cents per pound.
Another common question is how to recycle (or at least responsibly dispose
of) portable electronicscell phones, video games, MP3 players, etc.given that
they usually contain heavy metals and chemicals that can pollute soils and
groundwater. Deneen recommends dropping them off at your local Staples, Office
Depot or Radio Shack store, which should take them back free of charge even if
you didnt buy them there. Another option would be shipping the worn out items
to CollectiveGood (4508 Bibb Boulevard, Tucker, GA 30084), which will recycle
them and donate the proceeds to the charity of your choice.
If youre stumped about how or where to recycle an item, check out the
Earth911.org website. It offers a free keyword-searchable, zip code-based
database of municipal and commercial recycling and hazardous waste disposal
facilities across the United States. The frequently updated database, which is
funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as state governments
and several non-profits, can also direct you to the proper municipal facility or
local business to off-load potentially toxic items, like old tires or unused
paint, in a safe and responsible manner. If you dont have handy Internet
access, give Earth911s toll-free telephone hotline a call at 1-800-CLEANUP.
CONTACTS: How to Recycle Practically Anything,
GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental
Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at:
www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek, or e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read past