© 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.