Here's where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on climate change

The presidential hopefuls are mostly following party lines on global warming.

October 4, 2023, 3:43 PM

The 2024 U.S. presidential election may prove to be pivotal in how the country's handles climate change.

When the next president enters office in January 2025, the U.S. will be a mere 25 years away from its goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Here’s a brief look at where the major candidates stand on the issue.

Joe Biden

Biden began reversing environmental policies enacted by Trump almost as soon as he was sworn in, in January 2021, including immediately reentering the U.S. into the Paris climate agreement and revoking permits for the Keystone Pipeline.

Biden, now seeking reelection as a Democrat, has referred to the changing climate as "the existential threat to humanity," including in an August 2020 interview, alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, with ABC New anchor David Muir.

During his presidency, Biden's environmental agenda has included investing billions in green infrastructure and renewable energy, establishing protections for land and water and creating a goal for the U.S. to be net-zero by 2050.

Most recently, Biden launched the American Climate Corps, "a workforce training and service initiative" for more than 20,000 Americans to prepare them for jobs in so-called clean energy and climate resilience.

PHOTO: North Clear Creek Falls, approximately 57 miles from Canby mountain, is seen on September 24, 2023 in Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado.
North Clear Creek Falls, approximately 57 miles from Canby mountain, is seen on September 24, 2023 in Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer by trade, has positioned environmental policy as a centerpiece of his bid against Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.

"In 100% of the situations, good environmental policy is identical to good economic policy," Kennedy told a crowd of supporters when announcing his presidential run in April.

He has promised to protect wild lands if elected president by curbing logging, oil drilling and mining, as well as by containing suburban sprawl.

Kennedy has also long-opposed fracking, the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into the ground in order to extract oil and gas, and has touted plans to ban fracking nationwide should he be elected. Environmental advocates and researchers believe fracking may impact water quality and emit air pollutants by releasing toxic chemicals.

Marianne Williamson

Author and speaker Marianne Williamson, another challenger to Biden for the Democratic nomination, believes that the biggest crisis regarding the climate is a "massive state of denial," according to her campaign website.

Williamson believes that a "full scale climate emergency mobilization effort." similar to efforts undertaken by the U.S. during World War II, is necessary to curb climate change.

She has also said she would declare a national emergency to address climate change, invest in rebuilding America's infrastructure, and rescind the Willow Project, a ConocoPhillips oil drilling project in Alaska that the Biden administration approved in 2023.

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump has long falsely dismissed climate change as a "hoax" or "nonexistent."

Trump, now seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has repeatedly downplayed the dangers of rising sea levels and referred to proposed regulations to mitigate global warming as "radical."

Throughout his presidency, Trump reversed many American commitments to mitigating climate change, most notably withdrawing from the Paris agreement, removing clean water and air pollution protections and seeking to fast track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, such as drilling and fuel pipelines, which he said would help boost American energy production and the economy.

Still, Trump also labels himself a champion of the environment, emphasizing the importance of clean water and clean air.

Ron DeSantis

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has tended to downplay the effect of climate change, stating in 2019 that the issue had become politicized.

"My environmental policy is just to try to do things that benefit Floridians," DeSantis said in April 2019 following Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that struck the Florida Panhandle.

While speaking at an oil rig site in Midland, Texas, on Sept. 20, DeSantis unveiled his energy plan for the U.S. should he be elected as president, saying he would focus on building up American "dominance" while seeking to undo the policies of President Joe Biden's administration.

DeSantis has also said that he believes there has been an attempt to stoke "fear" around global warming.

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has said that climate change is real and supports carbon capture -- but has balked in the past over drastic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

During the first GOP debate in August, Haley said that the work needs to start overseas for the planet to see any significant decrease to greenhouse gas emissions, despite the U.S. being the No. 3 polluter in the world, behind China and India.

"If you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions," Haley said. "That's where our problem is."

Vivek Ramaswamy

Entrepreneur and Republican commentator Vivek Ramaswamy has previously acknowledged the existence of climate change and called himself an environmentalist, but also contends the "climate change agenda" is a "hoax."

"Do I believe it is a fact that global surface temperatures are rising over the course of the last century of the last half century? Yes, I think that that is an established fact," Ramaswamy said in a September interview with ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis.

As president, Ramaswamy would "drive human adaptation and mastery of changes in the climate through technological advances," which he has said would require more use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Ramaswamy has also advocated for drilling, fracking and burning coal despite environmental concerns about the practices, and does not support government subsidies for renewable energy like wind or solar power.

PHOTO: People walk by cracked earth in an area once under the water of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Jan. 27, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev.
People walk by cracked earth in an area once under the water of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Jan. 27, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev.
John Locher/AP

Mike Pence

When he ran for Congress in 2000, former Vice President Mike Pence's campaign website described global warming as a "myth."

Pence's position on climate change had evolved by the time he became governor of Indiana and then Trump's running mate for the 2016 campaign: In a CNN interview, he said that there was "no question" that humans have had an impact on climate.

Earlier this year, during a town hall on CNN in June, Pence argued that while there will be "modest changes in temperature" in the coming century, the warming won't be as bad as "radical environmentalists" are exaggerating it to be.

Pence has denounced government climate mitigation mandates and embraces "an all of the above" approach to energy production, making the quest for U.S. to be the world's leading energy producer by 2040 part of his presidential campaign.

Chris Christie

When former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, he acknowledged that the planet was warming due to human activity.

Christie said during a primary debate in October 2015 that he would approach an all-of-the-above policy that would include natural gas and oil and, when "affordable," solar energy as well.

He has continued with that stance, saying during a "Conversation with the Candidate" town hall hosted by ABC New Hampshire affiliate WMUR in August that the U.S. "can't disarm ourselves economically while we convert to cleaner energy."

Christie has also heavily promoted nuclear energy as a solution to the U.S.'s carbon problem.

Tim Scott

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has acknowledge the existence of climate change but has not offered much on what he would do about it as president.

In August, Scott, a Republican, said during an interview on "Fox & Friends" that it is "ridiculous" and an "unbelievable dereliction of duty" for Biden to declare a national climate emergency when the country was facing emergencies elsewhere, such as migrants at the southern border and the fentanyl epidemic.

"The best thing to do for the climate is to keep our jobs at home, not to send them to countries like China, India and Africa that have not impacted their actual carbon footprint," Scott said.

Doug Burgum

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has made clear that climate change is in effect but believes the issue has become politicized, he told The Sioux City Journal in July.

In 2021, the Republican governor pledged to make North Dakota reach net-zero in emissions by 2030 "without a single mandate." Instead, "innovation," such as carbon capture, hydrogen and biofuels, would help the state become carbon neutral by the end of the decade, Burgum said.

During the first GOP debate, last month, Burgum denounced the use of renewable energy like solar panels, contending that Chinese solar panels are made by factories powered by coal plants, as has been previously reported.

Asa Hutchinson

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has acknowledged that the climate is changing but does not support government mandates to cut the nation's emissions.

During the first GOP primary debate on Aug. 23, Hutchinson was the only of the eight candidates to raise his hand when asked whether they believe that human activity is causing climate change.

If elected, Hutchinson would reverse the Biden administration's restrictions on pipeline construction and embrace an "all-of-the-above" energy policy that would remove barriers to nuclear power and end what he calls excessive scrutiny on fossil fuels, according to his campaign website.

Green energy options such as solar and wind would be driven by the market, he has said.

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Abby Cruz, Hannah Demissie, Fritz Farrow, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim, Nicholas Kerr, Will McDuffie, Kendall Ross and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.