Bill Weld, former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate, expanded his understanding of climate change with the help of local scientists.
Weld attended a briefing on Monday at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), making him the fourth presidential hopeful to take a meeting with the leaders of the thinktank.
After a tour and conversation with WHRC president Phil Duffy, Weld explained his intentions to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, support renewable energy, and impose a price on carbon if elected.
“I would issue a declaration that climate change is a national emergency,” he said. “And we’re going to require coal and oil and natural gas and mining companies to pay a fee… for every ton of carbon that they put in the atmosphere.”
According to his official campaign site, Weld would submit legislation for “an economy-wide carbon price, to be set initially at $40 per ton of carbon emission, increasing 5% annually thereafter,” in his first 100 days in office.
The proceeds from the carbon tax would be “used to provide payroll tax relief for lower-income workers and their families.”
“Some of the Democratic candidates have said ‘I’m gonna spend $16.3 trillion combatting climate change,’ with no specificity as to how you get from here to there,” Weld said. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Senator and Democratic frontrunner, released a climate plan in August 2019 with that pricetag.
After the visit, Weld said, he’d be interested in learning more about regenerative agriculture, or farming techniques that pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere to store in soil.
Weld is currently on a tour of the U.S., hoping, mostly, to win over Independents and “Never Trump” Republicans on March 3.
“I’m trying at the most elementary level to make voters understand there is an alternative to Trump,” he said.
Before Weld won almost 10 percent of the New Hampshire Republican primary vote, President Trump described Weld as one of the “non-people” running against him. Weld has pledged to continue his campaign through the primaries.
When asked why he’d throw his weight behind climate action when many Republican voters don’t see it as a top issue, he didn’t waver.
“Because it’s more important to save the planet than win the election.”
Leslie Marshall, a journalist and Weld’s wife of 17 years, said she and her husband see climate change as a “planetary emergency,” and described the outdoors as Weld’s “cathedral.”
“We joke that Bill and Mr. Trump are two large, orange men,” she said, “with nothing else in common.”
While serving as Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, Weld helped preserve more than 100,000 acres of open space, save endangered species like the piping plover, and, most notably, protect against development around rivers and creeks.
He celebrated that legislation by jumping into the Charles River in August 1996—unannounced and fully clothed. Asked whether he’d might that again, he said yes, just not in this weather.
“I’d love to do it when the time is right.”