Neglecting Climate Change

Former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius closes the negotiations on the Paris Agreement.
Photo Credit: 
Benjamin Géminel

September 2016 was the 381st consecutive month with above average global temperatures. The global sea level rose twice as much in the last decade than it did in the whole of the 20th century. Changing weather patterns, rising global temperatures, and rising sea levels - the scientific evidence is clear - climate change is a threat that we face not only here in our country, but all over the world.

The three presidential debates covered the economy, national security, the Supreme Court, and the major scandals of each candidate. The closest discussion on climate was when Internet sensation Ken Bone asked the candidates about their energy policies during the second town hall style debate. So why was one of the biggest issues facing us today, largely absent from all of the presidential debates?

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – the Democratic and Republican nominees for President – have vastly different views on climate change. One has acknowledged that climate change is a serious threat while the other barely believes it is an issue.

Donald Trump himself said that he is “not a great believer in man-made climate change.” According to him, global warming is a hoax. On November 6, 2012, Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S manufacturing non-competitive.” Three years later at a campaign rally in South Carolina, Trump said, “So Obama is talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it is a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax.” He has continued to make similar comments in interviews, during campaign rallies, and on Twitter.

The Trump campaign website does not have a specific section focused on climate change. It only mentions energy policy and that largely focuses on job creation and the economy. If elected President, Trump said that he would cancel the Paris Agreement, the first-ever legally binding global climate deal adopted by 195 countries, and “tear up” President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Contrast that with what Hillary Clinton has said.

During Clinton’s Democratic National Convention acceptance speech in June, the former Secretary of State said, “I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.” On her campaign website, Clinton states that she will, “deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference” and create an Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force to focus on the “health, economic, and environmental impacts of pollution and climate change in vulnerable communities.” Clinton even brought out Al Gore during a Miami campaign rally to highlight the issue.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 64% of Americans are worried about global warming. But the difference in opinion between supporters of each major candidate is striking. Supporters of Hillary Clinton are far more likely than those of Donald Trump to be concerned about climate change, to believe climate change is mostly the result of human activity, to say a range of policy and individual actions can be effective in addressing climate change and to think scientists understand climate change. According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, 56% of Clinton supporters say they care a great deal about the issue of global climate change while only 15% of Trump supporters say they care. A full 70% of Clinton supporters say the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity, but just 22% of Trump supporters share that view.

The United States has the highest carbon emissions per capita but is among the least concerned about climate change. Scientific research shows that climate change will not only affect our oceans, our air quality, and our wildlife, but it will also impact our economy and our way of life. While the effects of job loss, immigration, and the threat of ISIS are more immediate, the effects of climate change are dangerous and severe. That is why we need a President who will take serious action on climate change because as President Barack Obama said, “no challenge -- no challenge -- poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change."

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