The Presidential Race: Through a Scientific Lens
As the Presidential Election on November 3rd approaches, voters generally have a strong sense of who they want to vote for based on key issues that resonate with them. Some, however, may still be unsure and this is understandable due to the sheer amount of issues to consider with each presidential candidate: the economy, social justice, reproductive rights, and so much more.
The key issue I want to focus on here is, you guessed it, science. As voters and scientists, we need to consider each presidential candidate’s stance on scientific issues and what potential implications their candidacy could have in these areas. This article will explore how Joe Biden and Donald Trump compare in some of these areas by listing their recent responses and records pertaining to key scientific issues today in an unbiased manner.
The scientific consensus regarding climate change is that it is occurring and that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. Various scientific associations and organizations support evidence on climate change, such as the American Medical Association, NASA, the International Panel on Climate Change, etc.
· Committed to having the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, a legally binding global climate change agreement.
· Platform states that he “knows there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world.” He has outlined a “Clean Energy Revolution” plan to address climate change.
· Aims for the U.S. to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050 by signing a series of new executive orders and demanding for Congress to enact legislation that supports this.
· In a recent speech in Pittsburg, he has stated that he has no plans on banning fracking.
· Withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord on June 1, 2017.
· Cut funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) on April 2018. CMS is a system used to measure carbon dioxide and methane emissions to help individual nations track their progress in cutting emissions, based on the Paris Climate Accord.
· Established the Affordable Clean Energy Rule on June 19, 2019, which aims to give states more time and authority to decide how to implement the best new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants. The rule does not set any standards to cap those emissions.
Conservation aims at protecting and preserving the natural environment and the ecological communities that inhabit it. Ecologists note that biodiversity plays an important role in various areas, including: the economy, ecological life support, recreation, and culture. Sustaining biodiversity or environmental conservation is also subject to political influences.
· Plans to establish an Environmental Justice Division to work with the EPA.
· Made firm commitments to restore and reforest public lands and ban new drilling permits.
· Co-sponsored efforts to increase funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund.
· Conducted various roll backs on EPA regulations, including those that weaken the Endangered Species Act, fishing and hunting regulations, etc.
· Signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act of 2019, expanding recreational access to public lands and supporting land and water conservation.
· Proposed a 16% budget cut for the Department of Interior (DOI) on February 2020. DOI is a federal department responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources.
· Signed the Great American Outdoors Act, providing $9 billion over the next five years to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This aims to fix deferred maintenance at national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and other federal lands. Signed August 4, 2020.
Science education in this context deals with support for science-based programs and curriculum. These allow students to explore opportunities within the sciences and promote interest in STEM fields. Access to these is highly dependent on funding and support from the federal government, which is highly influenced by the POTUS.
· Plans to invest $5 billion in graduate programs in teaching, health care, and STEM.
· Aims to expand College Promise programs to provide two years of community college or other high-quality training programs without debt.
· Signed the INSPIRE (Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers Women) Act on February 2017 to compel NASA to encourage women to pursue an education in STEM fields.
· Signed a presidential memorandum on June 2017 directing the Department of Education to make STEM and computer science education a top priority, which called for the Secretary of Education to set a goal of devoting at least $200 million per year toward STEM education. $279 million was allocated to discretionary STEM grants in 2018.
The response to the current COVID-19 pandemic is one of the largest talking points in this presidential race. The scientific community has been at the forefront of delivering information regarding the virus and creating guidelines to mitigate its spread. The federal and local governments, however, are primarily responsible for enforcing these guidelines.
· Wants to ensure public access to regular, reliable, and free testing by increasing the number of drive-through testing sites.
· Plans to invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan aimed to provide the vaccine to every American, cost-free.
· Plans to re-launch and strengthen U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program called PREDICT.
· Stated that “Masks matter. These masks, they matter. It matters. It saves lives. It prevents the spread of the disease.”
· Distributed $2.5 billion of a planned $5 billion distribution to nursing homes to support increased testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.
· Initiated Operation Warp Speed on May 2020 to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
· Cut funding for U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program (PREDICT) on March 2020, which discontinued the program.
· Stated that masks “[are] voluntary. You don’t have to do it. They suggested for a period of time, but this is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
The POTUS has a large influence on handling issues pertaining to the scientific community. As voters and scientists, it’s imperative that we review these issues under a critical lens to best make an informed decision in this upcoming election.
Note that the information provided in here is limited to the scope of the most recent years and that more information is available through other news outlets and resources. I encourage you to continue your research on this topic as well as other key issues that resonate with you and form a solid stance on who you’d like to support.
Additional information regarding these topics can be found on each candidate's campaign website and other government agency websites.