Go to it.
Obama and Romney have submitted their responses about scientific issues that are important to economics, national security, and global environmental consciousness. I was a lot more impressed with overall responses between McCain and Obama in the 2008 sciencedebate.
This time around, Obama’s responses seemed a bit canned and lacking in detail. This was overcome by the fact that his positions are clear from the 2008 round, and one can verify that by seeing where his administration has allocated funding. Overall, I’m too unsophisticated with respect to the financial intricacies to evaluate whether Romney’s criticisms of Obama’s allegedly inefficient spending are valid.
For both Romney and Obama, I tend to consciously ignore statements I like, since they are probably just words (in the case of Obama, I can look at his actions). I pay close attention to statements that make me worry.
Romney made a lot of statements that made me worry.
Romney admits that he is not an expert before saying his interpretation of climate data is that the earth is warming and that humans contribute to that warming. This is promising, but he says afterwards that it is hard to tell to what extent the climate will change. While this is technically true, sophisticated simulations tend to agree that the scenarios are very bleak if we do not reduce emissions drastically by 2050. Romney argues that US emissions have leveled off (which isn’t enough, by the way), and that developing nations have no interest in leveling emissions because it would stifle their growth. He criticizes Cap ‘n’ Trade since he thinks companies will just move to those countries that do not limit emissions. If that’s not the worst argument ever, I don’t know what is.
Let me put it to you this way: The entire world, as a whole, MUST reduce emissions dramatically if we want to live in the climate in which humans have evolved to live in comfortably. See my previous essays and posts on climate change. To say that we shouldn’t reduce emissions because other nations aren’t reducing emissions is a sure way to keep emissions high. I say we do Cap ‘n’ Trade, or any policy (within reason) that reduces emissions, and companies that move to China and India feel the backlash of conscious consumers (of which there are not enough) and harsh penalties. International support is key a well. Romney supports what he calls a “No Regrets” policy, where we basically innovate ourselves to lower emissions. I don’t understand how he plans to implement that, since he doesn’t believe in government interfering with companies coupled with the fact that companies have nothing to gain by being environmentally conscious.
Another statement that worries me is when Romney criticizes Obama for policies that will “bankrupt the coal industry.” I’m sorry, but the coal industry has to die by 2030. It needs to be gone. That goes for the entire planet. China needs to stop burning coal, we need to stop burning coal, everyone needs to stop burning coal. It’s the fucking 21st century and we’re still burning coal.
Another statement that worries me is when Romney criticizes Obama for opposing the pipeline through Nebraska in close proximity to saying he will increase energy independence by focusing on domestic energy resources. I read this to mean “Drill baby, drill!” Again, it’s the 21st century. We can’t be heavily investing in a short term energy source that is disastrous for the environment and for global warming. It doesn’t make sense. You know what makes sense? Fully electric cars that provide flexibility to the grid, making wind energy more viable. You know what makes sense? Fast trains. It’s the 21st century and we still have slow trains. How about those 300 mph electric trains, eh? You know what makes sense? Public transportation infrastructure. And let’s make sure we get our energy cleanly. Then we cut emissions at both ends. But somehow, Romney thinks all these things can happen by the will of a free market that has no interest in long term health, environment, and energy consequences.
Romney’s education discussion is hard to derive any meaning from. “Rewarding teachers” and giving parents “choice over where their children go to school” sounds a lot like racial/SES segregation and maintenance of inequality. I don’t see how his rewarding teachers based on standardized test scores will do anything but reward teachers who teach the most privileged students and punish teachers like me who want to affect change high needs schools. He seems to think that unions are directly opposed to student success (don’t get me wrong, unions can, like anything else, get out of control–but often that’s not the case). He talks about supporting and expanding the charter schools that succeed, but many of these charter schools cherry pick their students so that they stand above the surrounding failing schools. I’m not sure what to think about his statements, since there is little concrete to stand on. Maybe his plans would be awesome, but from what I’ve heard him say about higher education, he doesn’t seem to be in tune with the greater cultural contexts that affect student learning.
The last thing I’ll mention that worries me is that Romney says he wants to leave the internet to the free market. He opposes net neutrality. For any citizen of the internet, this alone is reason enough not to vote for him. The internet needs to remain a free, completely unhindered medium of information exchange. When companies start deciding who gets to say what, or which sites get bandwidth and which don’t, the internet has died. Romney seems to think that self-interested, monopolistic companies having control of the internet will not interfere with the economic prosperity the internet provides.
Overall, the worrisome statements about science preclude me from voting for Romney in good conscience. I’m not sure whether Obama’s spending is as efficient as it could be, but he seems to be spending in the right places and he seems concerned about addressing energy in a forward-thinking way.