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BACKPACKER Exclusive: Interview with John McCain and Barack Obama

Backcountry enthusiasts deserve a president who cares about trails. So we asked John McCain and Barack Obama ten tough questions–then polled 989 BACKPACKER readers to find out what matters to you in this election.
john mccain barack obama 445x260(Illustrations by Jackie McCaffrey)

The trail to the White House winds through varied–and at times hazardous–terrain. There’s health care, the economy, and energy. Not to mention war and terrorism. You can learn much about how the candidates stand on those issues from newspapers, television, and websites. But 100 years from now, the issue that may just matter most is the preservation of our parks and trails and wild places. And that won’t be discussed during any debate. So we asked the candidates about national park funding, global warming, protection for ANWR, and more–including where they go for a good hike.

What experiences have affected your views on the environment?

Obama My connection to the earth was formed during my time in Hawaii, my birthplace. I think those of us who grew up in Hawaii have a particular attachment to the land and understand how fragile it is. When you are snorkeling through the coral reefs, you can see firsthand that a slight change in temperature or increase in sediment and runoff or change in acidification could end up destroying it all and making it unavailable for your children.

McCain I have viewed the tremendous harm that global warming has done to our planet. In Greenland, you can see the glaciers have receded dramatically. You can see the impact in northern Norway. You can go to the South Pole and see incredible damage. These are the visible and disturbing manifestations of climate change, and they should compel us to action.

One-third of our readers say they’ve witnessed the effects of global warming in our country’s wilderness firsthand. How would your administration handle this issue?

McCain The environmental and economic threats posed by climate change are enormous, as are the stakes of how well we deal with the problem. I believe we should pursue a market-based cap-and-trade system to achieve appropriate limits on greenhouse gas emissions. I will ensure that such a system is employed as a means of diversifying the nation’s energy mix, which, in turn, will make us less dependent on foreign oil, and thereby place America at the forefront of developing energies and environmental protection technologies that the world will demand for many years to come.

Obama I have frequently said on the campaign trail that tackling global climate change will be a top priority of mine both domestically and internationally. I was the first candidate to present a 100-percent carbon auction within my cap-and-trade proposal to reduce emissions by the amount recommended by top scientists. I am also the only candidate to use the same message on global climate change whether it’s in front of environmental audiences or automotive CEOs in Detroit, Michigan.

According to the candidates’ environmental planks, both support a cap-and-trade program to regulate carbon emissions (Obama’s has the goal of decreasing emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels; McCain’s goes to 60 percent below). Obama would have those credits sold at auction (some of the proceeds would be invested in clean energy development); McCain would phase in auctions eventually.

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