President Obama is in Paris this week, hunkered down with world leaders in hopes of hammering out a deal to curb carbon emissions worldwide. The agreement, if one is reached, will be the centerpiece of Obama's climate legacy, but it will also be the next president's job to uphold it.
With that in mind, the Associated Press asked eight climate scientists to evaluate the climate stances of the 12 leading presidential candidates' for their scientific accuracy. The assessment was based on statements in debates, public appearances and tweets, and each comment was stripped of any identifying markers to prevent bias.
The Democratic candidates claimed the top three spots. Hillary Clinton scored the highest, with 94, followed by Martin O'Malley with 91, then Bernie Sanders with 87.
Sanders was penalized for claiming climate change would make the earth "uninhabitable," which scientists called an exaggeration. "I would not say that the planet will become uninhabitable. Regardless of what we do, some humans will survive," Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University said.
Among the Republicans, Jeb Bush, with a grade of 64, scored the highest. Ted Cruz earned the lowest marks: 6 out of a possible 100.
Cruz was graded harshly for comments like this one he made at an event this summer: "If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there's been zero warming...The satellite says it ain't happening."
Scientists agree that's untrue; both ground and satellite data "show continued warming over the past several decades," James Elsner of Florida State University said.
Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Michael Mann pulled no punches assessing Cruz's statements. "This individual understands less about science (and climate change) than the average kindergartner," Mann said. "That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president."
Every Republican candidate except Bush was given a failing grade by the AP's scientists: New Jersey Gov. Christie, 54; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, 47; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 38; Carly Fiorina, 28; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 21; Donald Trump, 15; Ben Carson, 13.