Some scientists have declared that we’ve entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene, in which humans have come to dominate Earth. Since the Industrial Revolution, our activities have severely altered the natural world, often for the worse. The culmination of these alterations is climate change, which threatens the entire biosphere. Recently, environmental issues have been featured in news headlines. For instance, Carbon Dioxide irreversibly exceeded 400 ppm in the atmosphere. The Great Barrier Reef was virally eulogized (in actuality only 22% has been scientifically pronounced dead.) If every person on Earth was to live like an American, five earths would be needed to sustain our consumer driven lifestyle. In light of these headlines, it is time for the United States to step up and create an aggressive plan to fight climate change.
Many hoped that the president elected in 2016 would start an environmental revolution. However, no such candidate (think Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein) received a major party nomination. Instead, we are left with a lackluster choice in a two-party system: vote Democratic with Hillary Clinton or Republican with Donald Trump. Clinton has not put the environment at the forefront of her campaign, but she has acknowledged the need to combat climate change. In contrast, Trump believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Both candidates have received thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry to finance their campaigns, which raises concerns about how ready either of them are to address the issue.
Concerned citizens like myself are dying to hear what the candidates have to say about climate change. So far, all we’ve heard is silence. Throughout the three Presidential debates and the single Vice-Presidential debate, not a single question was asked about the issue. The omission of environmental discussion is insulting, and provides further insight to America’s skewed priorities. Clinton and Trump had ample opportunity to discuss climate change in their three debates. Yet, the topic only received three minutes and forty-seven seconds of their attention. During these few crucial minutes, the environment was largely regarded as an economic tool via energy.
Both candidates must incite a plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy in order to win over the American people. Frequently, Clinton discussed her policy ideas to boost the economy through sustainable energy sources, but has never said that the use of fossil fuels needs to end. Trump encourages the use of fossil fuels.
In the first debate Clinton stated:
“I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.”
Trump stated in response:
“She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster. They lost plenty of money on that one. Now, look, I’m a great believer in all forms of energy, but we’re putting a lot of people out of work. Our energy policies are a disaster. Our country is losing so much in terms of energy, in terms of paying off our debt. You can’t do what you’re looking to do with $20 trillion in debt.”
Neither of their responses directly address climate change.
In the second presidential debate, the man in the red sweater, Ken Bone became an internet sensation.
He posed the question,
“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?”
Trump was the first to speak. His statement included:
“And you look at our miners. Hillary Clinton wants to put all the miners out of business. There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country. Now we have natural gas and so many other things because of technology. We have unbelievable — we have found over the last seven years, we have found tremendous wealth right under our feet. So good. Especially when you have $20 trillion in debt.”
“I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change, because I think that is a serious problem. And I support moving toward more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can, because I think we can be the 21st century clean energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses. But I also want to be sure that we don’t leave people behind. That’s why I’m the only candidate from the very beginning of this campaign who had a plan to help us revitalize coal country, because those coal miners and their fathers and their grandfathers, they dug that coal out. A lot of them lost their lives. They were injured, but they turned the lights on and they powered their factories. I don’t want to walk away from them. So we’ve got to do something for them.”
Earlier on, Clinton incorrectly stated that the United States is energy independent. In 2016, 1.4 billion barrels of oil were imported into the United States. But even if the U.S. were energy independent, we shouldn’t be celebrating. Gaining independence by extracting and burning more fossil fuels comes at the expense of an inhabitable planet.
Even so, a Clinton Presidency is better for the environment than a Trump Presidency. She is willing to spur widespread use of renewable energy and implement policy for displaced fossil fuel workers to find jobs. She is the only bipartisan candidate who will say the scientifically proven words: climate change is real.
Trump’s billionaire business tactics will treat the environment as an afterthought. He panders to the coal industry by attacking Clinton, and in doing so fails to realize that coal’s tremendous dangers. Trump can not fix the national deficit with fossil fuels as he commonly boasts. The only way human energy systems will find long-term success is if they become more compatible with the natural world.
Ultimately, both candidates failed to discuss the implications of climate change. Environmental planning was suggested through economics, but the intersectionality of climate change within numerous debate topics was excluded. They heavily discussed ISIS- but failed to realize that climate change is an even larger threat than terrorism. They discussed Syria, but failed to discuss how climate change exacerbated its 2011 drought that lead to the civil war. When discussing foreign policy, they did not include the money we spend, and the violence we inflict on other countries in order to maintain control over foreign oil fields. They failed to link the refugee crisis to climate change, which will be a leading cause for migration in the near future. They talked about racial issues, but neglected the hazardous environmental conditions that many of these marginalized people endure. They failed to discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Trump holds an economic stake in, and which Clinton has still not taken a stance on.
Despite all her environmental shortcomings, Hillary Clinton must become president. Given the two options, she provides the best chance for environmental change, while Trump ensures a bleak future for all ecosystems. As the people, let’s challenge Clinton to be more outspoken in office than she has been during the election.