Hillary Clinton at Gallaudet University for the SEIU union forum in 2007. (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

Hillary Clinton at Gallaudet University for the SEIU union forum in 2007. (Image: WikiMedia Commons)

Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her presidential run on Sunday. After years of speculation, the media exploded at the news, but it was a simple tweet from her campaign chairman, John Podesta, that really caught our attention.

At 1:45 PM, Podesta tweeted out the key planks of Clinton’s campaign. Included in those 140 characters was “tackling climate change & clean energy.”

Of the four candidates officially running for President of the United States, Clinton is the only one to place climate change front and center. According to ThinkProgress, Ms. Clinton actually merits an even loftier accolade: Leading the first campaign in history to make fighting climate change a key issue.

Simply acknowledging the importance of climate change puts Clinton leagues ahead of her competitors, each of which is an avowed – and vociferous – climate skeptic. Let’s take a look:

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): Says Global Warming Doesn’t Exist

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). (Image: Jamelle Bouie / Flickr)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). (Image: Jamelle Bouie / Flickr)

Cruz announced his candidacy on March 23. A former lawyer, Cruz is well-educated and well-liked by Christian conservatives. Perhaps, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), it’s that latter quality that has led him to dump scientific data in favor of Bible thumping. According to Inhofe, “the arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what [God] is doing int he climate is to me outrageous.” Of course, Inhofe accepted over $450,000 from the fossil fuel industry in his latest campaign, but let’s get back to Cruz.

Sen. Cruz accepted nearly $1 million in campaign donations from the oil & gas industry and has appeared on several public programs saying things like scientific data does not support global warming or that the last 15-17 years have shown “no recorded warming.” Perhaps these two points are unrelated but Cruz’s facts are most definitely wrong.

California Governor Jerry Brown, currently fighting the effects of climate change in his state, had nothing but harsh words for the candidate in a recent appearance on Meet the Press. “That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of existing scientific data, it’s shocking,” Brown said of Cruz. “And I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”

As the head of the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, Cruz has attempted to get NASA to stop focusing on climate change. Thankfully, his influence on the agency is limited.

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrass Tyson also had harsh words for Cruz during a recent speech at Ringling College: “If you’re going to ignore Earth, and no one else is paying attention to Earth the way NASA is — you could be planting the seeds of your own destruction.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): Says Climate Activists Are “Alarmists”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Paul announced his candidacy on April 7. During an interview with former senior advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, Paul actually made the delightful comment that “scientific debate should not be dumbed down to politics.” Unfortunately, he followed that up by saying the Earth goes through periods of climate changes without anybody knowing exactly why.

“[T]he conclusions you make from that are not conclusive,” Paul added.

For the record, the Earth does go through periods of climate change, but the rate of climate change is currently faster than it has ever exhibited before and scientists have a pretty good idea why (hint: greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and ocean warming).

While Paul, son of noted libertarian and frequent presidential campaigner Ron Paul, is against pollution and does believe the country should reign that in, he also calls global warming activism “alarmist stuff” that detracts from the cause.

Of the three Republicans currently running, Sen. Paul appears to hold the most conscientious view of climate change, but his flippancy concerning the facts is not heartening.

“If you listen to the hysterics,” said Paul in 2011, “you would think that the Statue of Liberty will shortly be under water and the polar bears are all drowning, and that we’re dying from pollution. It’s absolutely and utterly untrue.”

Paul conflates the worst (and long-term) predictions of climate change with the need to control emissions now, which does no one any favors.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): Doesn’t Believe in Man-Made Climate Change

Senator Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Sen. Rubio announced his candidacy on April 13. While Rubio has been less vocal about his climate views than Cruz and less incendiary in his comments than Paul, the Republican has nevertheless hugged the party line on anthropogenic climate change.

In an interview last year with ABC News, Rubio acknowledged that “climate is always changing” but dismissed the idea that humans have any affect on it.

“I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Rubio added that he does not believe passing laws to fight climate change will achieve anything other than “destroy[ing] our economy.”

In actuality, pricing carbon and transitioning to renewable power could be quite good for the economy, if handled appropriately, both at home and abroad.

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