Debate prompts discussion of environmental issues

by Robert Koch

DES MOINES, Iowa — Outside Saturday’s Republican presidential debate in Johnston, Iowa, a dozen young people representing Ozone Action chanted, “Mr. Candidate, take a stand! Global warming, what’s your plan?”
Among the activists was Drake University student Marta Anderson, who grew up in Shoreview, Minn.
“I definitely think that the environment is one of the things that young people care about the most. It’s something politicians need to look at if they want to appeal to young voters,” said Anderson, an environmental science and policy program senior at Drake, in Des Moines.
The environment might not be foremost among the issues being discussed by the candidates in preparation for next week’s Iowa caucuses. Still, activists like Anderson refuse to let the issue go unaddressed.
A Public Broadcasting System poll found that environmental issues were not among the most pressing issues in this year’s presidential race. The poll found campaign finance reform, health care and education to be the most important issues.
Activist Antha Williams said global warming could cause Iowa corn yields to drop as much as 23 percent during the next several decades. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are discussing the problem, she said.
During the debate, the GOP candidates fielded a basic question: Are tougher laws needed to protect the environment?
Texas Gov. George W. Bush said, “I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good. [Clinton administration officials] try to sue our way to clean air and clean water.”
Candidate Steve Forbes denounced the Clinton administration’s policy on global warming as unscientific.
“They know that the Kyoto Treaty could never be approved by the Senate, so they’re trying to do it by regulatory decree,” Forbes said.
The Kyoto Protocol, drafted in Japan in 1998, calls for sharp reductions of greenhouse gasses.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the Kyoto Protocol threatens to make America less competitive and vowed to ignore it should he be elected.
GOP candidates might not have attracted environmentalists with their stances, but neither have Democrats.
Vice President Al Gore, who recently published a book about the environment, still lacks endorsements from major environmental groups like the Sierra Club.
“But that isn’t uncommon,” said Debbie Neustadt of the Iowa Sierra Club. Often, her organization will not endorse a candidate until after the primaries.
“My opinion is that the Sierra Club will endorse a candidate in this election. My guess, if it’s going to be anybody, it would be a Democratic candidate,” Neustadt said.