© Josh Sager – September 2016
Anthropogenic climate change is the single largest and most dangerous issue facing the human race today. Unless drastic action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, millions of people will be displaced, millions more will be affected by famines and droughts, and catastrophic weather events (e.g. Katrina) will hit at an increasing frequency.
Unfortunately, climate change has been largely neglected during the 2016 presidential general election—neither Clinton nor Trump has made a significant effort to focus on the issue and it has fallen out of the public eye. Given the importance of this issue, particularly when compared to the irrelevant issues we are currently spending so much time on (e.g. Hillary calling Trump supporters “Deplorables” and Trump getting offended), this is completely unacceptable and needs to change.
While both major parties have ignored climate change as a primary campaign issue, the Hillary and Trump campaigns have entirely different reasons for doing so.
Trump rejects the science of climate change and has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese to destroy the USA. Put simply, he is wholly detached from reality and only brings up climate change when he wants to mock those of us who accept the scientific consensus (or when he wants to beg for public funds to protect his golf course from flooding). It is also worth mentioning that a significant percentage of Trump’s supporters are also climate change deniers, thus it is possible that he secretly recognizes the threat, but is just too cowardly to contradict his base.
Hillary accepts the reality of climate change and would like people to think that she has been part of efforts to combat it; however, she has largely neglected climate issues since winning the primary, focusing significantly more time on issues like ISIS and women’s health. Since the Democratic convention, Hillary has only talked about climate change while discussing her part in organizing the Paris climate talks (which are non-binding, have no enforcement mechanisms, and incorporate projections that aren’t realistic).
There are many potential reasons why Hillary has neglected to talk about climate change and make it a major column of her campaign. Here are the top 3 reasons in my opinion:
- She may assume that focusing on other issues (e.g. ISIS) is more likely to interest voters than a real discussion about climate change. While it is true that uninformed voters may see ISIS as a greater threat than changing climates, this is a function of public ignorance, not an objective viewing of the facts.
- She may want to avoid offending Republicans who support dirty energy and see climate change as a hoax. Hillary already faced this type of criticism during the primary when she (rationally) criticized the coal industry and she may be trying to avoid similar fallout during the general.
- She may want to avoid alienating big-money donors from the oil/coal industry. Hillary is currently raising significantly more money from big-oil than Trump is (in August, she raised $1,175,000 from oil interests/employees, compared to Trump’s $619,000), and making climate change a serious campaign issue would disrupt this.
The media needs to step up immediately to demand that both political candidates clearly address the climate crisis. Simply ignoring an important issue because both major political candidates is irresponsible journalism—even more so when we consider the magnitude of the threat posed by climate change.
Climate change threatens to kill millions and render entire swathes of our planet uninhabitable for human life. This will create cascading crises (e.g. refugees, resource wars, etc.) and make it extremely hard for future generations to sustain our current standard of living. If we can have an entire town hall focusing on the “secret” foreign policy plans of Trump and Hillary’s various mistakes and scandals, it would be absurd not to have at least one such event focusing on the greatest threat facing the human race. Unfortunately, our politics today are undeniably absurd and I have little hope that the media will step up on this issue.
Clinton is pretty clear where she stands on combating climate change. She has a number of detailed plans and fact sheets on her campaign Issues page of her website.
She has raised 1.2 million dollars from employees and lobbyists of the fossil fuel industry. Nothing directly from oil companies. To put this in perspective, this represents 1% of her total campaign contributions. (according to Fact check. org)
She has made major addresses on the issue, including one in July, 2015. Not much since then, except as recorded in the Dem platform. It is frustrating that the media prefers to respond to emails and Benghazi and Donald Trump’s various statements rather than act as intelligent keepers of the public trust.
Trump has driven the agenda , with the help of the media.
He wants to talk about ISIS and walls and emails and other nonsense, and the media lets him.
Give a speech with details and an outline of a plan to combat climate change and the media will ignore it. Or perhaps comment that the candidate looked ill or some other nonsense. Not a topic that lends itself to soundbites.
Let us hope that the debates allow the American people to see the differences in how these candidates deal with issues. It is up to the moderators to make it happen. All they have to do is ask one question: What is your position on climate change and what are your plans?
Hillary certainly has a better plan than Trump but she is wobbly on fracking and against a carbon tax, which is really a vital part of any feasible and binding climate plan (according to experts), barring a rapid development of effective carbon capture and utilization technology. She HAS taken money from big oil, through her super-PACs, and many of her major bundlers are also lobbyists with the oil and gas industry: https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.php?ind=E01&cycle=2016&recipdetail=P&mem=N&sortorder=U
The issue I am trying to address here is not actually the policy, but the fact that there has been almost no talk about it during the campaign. I saw Hillary’s address (and the subsequent release of her plan), but there was little coverage relative to how much time is spent on issues that are of minor import.
I would love to see a full town hall or debate on this issue alone. Trump would never agree to it because he has no plan, but it is an issue that we need to talk about when making major political decisions.
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Clinton has had it both ways on fracking. Here in NY (where Cuomo has stopped all fracking) she was very opposed but in other places she has been qualified in her response. She has said she would allow it only if it can be done safely and all the chemicals used are made public. Which in reality would end fracking. As you probably know fracking was partially exempted from the Clean Water Act by the GOP Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. (known as the Halliburton loophole).
My advice to Hillary during the debates is to do what Trump does.
Ignore the question and talk about what she wants to talk about. If she wants to emphasize climate policy nothing is stopping her. Just do it.
I think of lot of independents and moderate Conservatives would be inclined to accept her ideas on this issue if she would just push them forward.
We both know that none of the debate moderators have the expertise or desire to ask the candidates in depth questions on any topic even remotely associated with science. But it would be nice.