Here's Where the Candidates Stand on 3 Crucial Science Topics

The Republican, Democratic, and Green party candidates talk climate change, space, and the internet.

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In August, the presidential campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and Libertarian Gary Johnson were sent 20 crucial science topics to consider. The questions for each topic were determined by leading American scientific institutions and what they felt were today’s most pressing issues in science and technology.

Science and technology, while intrinsically tied to other policy issues like the economy and education, have received scant attention this election. Here’s where they stand on three of the most important matters in science and technology (Johnson did not respond):

Climate Change

Question: What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?

Hillary Clinton: Clinton begins by asserting that when it comes to climate change, “the science is crystal clear.” She calls climate change an “urgent threat,” her words more impassioned here than they were in the presidential debate when former candidate Bernie Sanders outright declared climate change the single greatest threat to the nation. Clinton plans on launching the Clean Energy Challenge, a $60 billion cross-country partnership laying out three goals she wants to achieve within ten years of taking office: reducing oil consumption, cutting energy waste, and generating half of American electricity from clean sources.

Donald Trump: “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’” Instead of discussing climate change, he suggests that “perhaps” the better focuses would be clean water, malaria, and food production. He (inadvertently) does discuss climate change, however, when he says the United States should focus on alleviating its “dependence on fossil fuels.”

Jill Stein: Stein describes climate change as the “greatest existential threat that humanity has ever placed.” She states that there needs to be a “WWII-scale national mobilization” to stop it in its tracks and plans on creating 20 million jobs by 2030 by transitioning the country to clean renewable energy. Stein plans on enacting stronger environmental justice laws and banning energy extraction methods like fracking and offshore drilling.

The Internet

Question: What steps will you take to protect vulnerable infrastructure and institutions from cyber attack, and to provide for national security while protecting personal privacy on electronic devices and the internet?

Clinton: Clinton wants to make ensure the internet is a “space for free exchange” but primarily focuses on her answer here on cybersecurity. She plans on continuing President Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, and supports “public-private collaboration on cybersecurity innovation, along with implementing the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework.” Clinton also says that she considers a cyberattack against the United States just the same as “any other attack” and wants the country to lead the world in “setting the rules of cyberspace.”

Trump: The Republican candidate argues the government should not be allowed to “spy on its own citizens” and that “any attack on the Internet” is a “provocative act” that requires “the utmost in protection and, at a minimum, a proportional response.” He does not provide any policy framework.

Stein: Stein wants to negotiate an international treaty banning cyber-warfare and wants to create a new UN agency focused on the sources of cyber attacks. She supports net neutrality, public broadband Internet, and opposes the Online Piracy Act.


Question: What should America’s national goals be for space exploration and earth observation from space, and what steps would your administration take to achieve them?

Clinton: The long-time space enthusiast plans to work with Congress to keep NASA funded, flexible, and with leadership that will place an emphasis on “inventing and employing new technologies and efficiencies.” The space-related goals of her administration include making human exploration of Mars a reality, expanding the United States robotic presence “in the solar system,” and expanding security efforts through Earth systems monitoring.

Trump: The candidate, a more recent space enthusiast, writes that he is all about the “cascading effects of a vibrant space program” — which he sees as a program that inspires children to seek out STEM careers. He says that NASA should seek global partners, does not discuss funding, but does offer this nugget: “Observation from space and exploring beyond our own space neighborhood should be priorities.”

Stein: The candidate advocates for a leading space agency that actively works to end “space militarization.” She is against the privatization of space. Stein advocates for the signing of the International Treaty for Demilitarization of Space, wants to focus on American efforts to tackle climate change from space, and wants to ensure the funding of “pure research” (that which Stein perceives as a benefit to humanity).

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