Here’s What the VP Candidates Think About Global Warming

Now we just need someone to ask them about it.


This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Tuesday vice presidential debate may not get as much attention as the main show, but the rivals are nearly as polarized on the issues—especially when it comes to climate and energy.

On the left, we’ve got former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine—whose pitch to voters on the campaign trail includes, “Do you believe in climate science or don’t you?”

Read More: On Climate Change, Pence and Trump Are a Perfect Match

On Team Trump, it’s more complicated. Veep candidate Mike Pence is an Indiana governor and former member of Congress who has previously said that creationism should be taught in schools, smoking won’t kill you, and global warming is a myth. Pence has also, however, recently reversed himself on global warming, splitting from Trump’s position: “Well, look,” he told CNN after the first presidential debate, “there’s no question that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate.”

Here’s where the two stand:

Mike Pence

In his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, Pence received at least $850,000 from the energy sector, including $95,000 from coal magnate Robert Murray and $300,00 from David Koch. The friend of fossil fuels has also said that Trump will “end the war on coal,” and opposes President Obama’s signature environmental legislation, the Clean Power Plan. Indiana, the nation’s eighth largest coal producer, is one of 29 states currently fighting the legislation in court.

In 2014, Pence overturned an energy efficiency program enacted by his Republican predecessor, despite that fact that the Indiana Public Utility Commission estimated the program would create more than 18,600 jobs. That same year, Indiana ranked second among all states for industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

While in Congress, Pence also voted to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, and voted in favor of opening the Atlantic to offshore oil drilling. In fact, he voted against nearly every piece of environmental legislation during his 12 years in Congress, earning a lifetime score of 4 percent by the League of Conservation Voters.

Tim Kaine

Kaine supports the Clean Power Plan and introduced a budget amendment to help the Department of Defense prepare for climate change. The avid outdoorsman and conservationist has a lifetime score for 91 percent by the LCV.

He was an early opponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline, coming out against it in 2013.

During his tenure as governor, however, Kaine’s administration approved plans for a 668-megawatt coal plant in southwest Virginia. He’s also been in favor of offshore drilling in the Atlantic (although that changed after he joined the Clinton ticket).

Kaine says he views natural gas a “bridge fuel,” and—despite his opposition to Keystone—penned an an op-ed referring to himself as a “pro-pipeline senator.” According to ClimateWire’s Emily Holden, he supported fracking in national forests as governor, and he voted to fast-track natural gas export terminals.

Yet he’s endorsed the goal of transitioning the United States to 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, and Kaine protected 400,000 acres of land from development and worked to help coastal communities prepare for climate change.

If history is any indication, climate change won’t get much attention in Tuesday’s debate—in all presidential and vice presidential debates in the past five election seasons, climate change had a grand total of 37 minutes and 6 seconds.

If it were up to us, we’d want to hear a lot more about Pence’s recent comments on human-made climate change. Hearing from Pence and Kaine for a few minutes on climate would hardly be the most shocking turn of this election. After all, we’ve been surprised before.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.