Presidential candidates reveal views on science and technology

Heard enough from the presidential candidates on immigration? Tired of the talk about globalization?

You might be. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have talked a great deal about these issues on the campaign trail.

They have spent far less time talking about science and technology.

There’s a fairly comprehensive roundup of Trump, Clinton and Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s views on science and technology this week in Scientific American. (Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has yet to participate).

The publication, along with ScienceDebate.org, sought input from dozens of scientific organizations to come up with 20 questions for the candidates.

Some of their answers won’t surprise you. Clinton, for example, sticks pretty close to her stump speech on the issues of climate change, reiterating her desire to see half of all electricity generated from “clean” sources within 10 years and reducing oil consumption by a third over the same time.

Trump’s response on climate change is interesting.

He says, “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.’ Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.”

The semantics here are worth noting: he doesn’t deny man-made climate change is affecting our planet. Then again the dubious quotation marks might suggest otherwise.

Interestingly, the issues he suggests might be more worthy of our attention – clean water, malaria and food security – all will be affected by climate change, according to several studies. Here’s a good look at food security and climate change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a peer-reviewed journal article that predicts a mixed-bag type of scenario for the spread of malaria on a warming planet.

The candidates go on to provide their thoughts on issues such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, opioids, nuclear power, water and mental health.

Their response to questions about space exploration should be of particular interest to residents of Houston. Clinton seems to share NASA’s current ambitions to send humans to Mars. Trump makes no mention of Mars but says he values a robust space program.

It’s an interesting read, and in the coming days the staff at Scientific American plans on assigning letter grades to the candidates’ answers, scoring them on whether the candidate really answered the questions, the details provided in the answers and whether there’s scientific consensus around them.

That should be published next week.

We’ll certainly be reading.