Often-Ignored Issues of our Future: the Scientific Stances of the 2016 POTUS Candidates

Kelly Adams, Science and Technology Editor

When considering the major political issues of elections, it is unlikely that science is given much thought when eager voters align themselves with a candidate. The economy, immigration, and social issues often take precedent in the election booth, but each candidate also has “comprehensive” plans for scientific issues. Highly contested issues this election include the best defense against climate change, the environmental implications of fracking, and the battle over obligatory vaccinations.  To offer insight into each candidate’s platform, his or her scientific stances cannot be ignored. In this article, I will delve into each major parties’  candidate’s response to the three aforementioned matters, in order to provide a more rounded view of their candidacy.

Climate Change Contention 

The scientific issue that has received the most buzz this election is climate change, so it is only right to begin our examination with this topic. Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is no stranger to climate change discussions on the national and global level. Consequently, her stance on the issue reflects its importance in today’s world. She has praised the 195 nation Paris climate agreement regarding carbon emissions of last December as a “historic step forward”. Moreover, she vows to maintain the United States’ terms of the agreement as well as hold other nations accountable for their emissions.

To further this, Clinton has gone on the record saying, “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.” In her specific presidential plan, solving climate change does not come at the expensive of job creation. By investing nearly $60 billion over the course of her prospective presidency in renewable energy, she hopes that the United States will reduce their greenhouse gas levels by nearly 30% by 2025, while simultaneously creating jobs for American citizens all over the country.

Donald Trump has chosen to focus his campaign on alleviating the economic stresses of climate change solutions, rather than solving the environmental issue. Included in this platform is a plan to cancel all climate change related initiatives put in place by the Obama administration, including the recent Paris agreement. Viewing climate change as nothing more than a “hoax”, Trump claims that all financial contributions to the battle of climate change are wasteful and burdensome on the American economy. By cutting funding, he will allegedly increase the nation’s economic output by $700 billion each year for the next 30 years barring unforeseen complications. Additionally, Trump’s fiscal approach to this issue promises millions of new jobs and a $30 billion increase in wages each year.

Attacking Fracking 

Another hotly contested issue in this election is the debate over if  United States should limit or cease fracking exploits altogether. On one hand, there is huge economic gain for the United States in extracting our own natural oil via the process of fracking. However, with that gain come some major repercussions including irreversible environmental damage and even the spike in natural disturbances in South and Midwest regions of United States such as the earthquakes in Oklahoma.  Scientists are classifying these earthquakes as adverse side effects of fracking. However, in terms of policy referring to fracking, these two vastly different candidates seem to have finally found a common ground in their support of the controversial practice.

In accordance with the ideals of her political party, Hillary Clinton places great concern on the state of the environment. However, according the policy plan outlined on her official campaign website, Clinton is a supporter of fracking, with a caveat. She supports the extraction of natural gasses and sees the value of domestic oil extraction on the economy. This being said, she demands firmer regulations on fracking and stiffer procedures implemented to safeguard the environment and the American people.

Trump, whose focus never seems to stray from the financial state of the nation, believes that fracking is crucial to creating American independence in the energy sector. As outlined in a tweet from his official twitter account, Trump sees potential for an American advantage if the nation can extract their own natural gas, thus enabling them to control the energy market in which they must begin to play a more prominent role.

The Death of Rx 

Finally, the issue of vaccinations has proven to be a major gray area for both candidates, with a lot of flip-flopping from both . The two candidates  have been unclear with their positions on this controversial issue within the past few years.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton, a former vaccination skeptic, called vaccines a “possible environmental cause” of autism. She has maintained that she is unclear whether there is a proven correlation between vaccines and autism, but she has also stated that researchers must continue to test possible conclusive links. Nowadays, Clinton stands firmly in the pro-vaccination camp, tweeting in 2015 that “The science is clear” and adding #vaccineswork.

Donald Trump on the other hand, seems to fluctuate between the two stances. For example, he tweeted in 2015, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!” This issue is personal for Trump, as he has said on multiple occasions that he is slowing the vaccines administered to his youngest son Barron. However, Trump also has stated that he sees the value in vaccinations and educating the public about their benefits.

Scientific issues too often take the backburner in our election cycle. However, as demonstrated by the contentious nature of the abovementioned issues, understanding policy in this area can give voters invaluable insight into some of the more achievable promises made by politicians. I encourage everyone to examine the stances on these and other issues which will affect the future of this country and the world.

-Edited by Colette Juran

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  • Great article! I wish more people would bring climate change to the forefront of the debate.

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