Climate change is a growing concern; almost 75 percent of Americans today favor a government action for a safer, greener future. President Obama showed initiative against climate change when he introduced the historic Clean Power Plan this year, which set the first ever national carbon emission limit on the electric power sector. Climate change is the result of an increased average global temperature, where one of the major factors causing this warming is from emissions from non-renewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels and coal. Recently, Met Office data showed that the global annual average temperature has officially increased by 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and will continue increasing if no action is taken against climate change. This is alarming as todays average global temperature is now halfway to the internationally agreed critical point of 2 degree Celsius that is deemed the limit where climate change effects are intolerably high. With climate change a very real threat, the upcoming presidential campaign candidates’ stance on global warming could shape who wins office.
All democrat candidates have acknowledged the existence of man-made climate change; however, each take different responses when it comes to environmental policies. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders seek to resolve climate change with already released proposals. As part of her first acts in office, Clinton would involve generating 33 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable source, installing a half- billion solar panels, and to power every home with carbon-free sources all by 2020. Bernie Sanders stated he would tax emissions on oil and coal burning to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Sanders was also just endorsed by the national environmental group, Friends of the Earth, as a reward for Sanders’ pledge for climate change action, where 2 million activists claim to promote the nominee for president. Martin O’Malley said that clean energy would be his number one priority as president, pledging to create the Clean Energy Jobs Crops to reduce emissions and restore forests. As for the 15 Republican candidates, only Bobby Jindal has made specific proposals to reduce emissions but through small scale changes and not by building on the Obama administration’s environmental policies.
According to President Obama, climate change denial threatens national security as it “undermines the readiness of our forces”. The EPA already knows the damages expected nationwide by climate change. Americans in the Southwest and Great Plains can expect severe droughts. The Southeast can face more intense hurricanes and increased floods from rising sea levels. The Midwest and Northeast face economic damage from reduced agriculture yields and intense heat waves. The Northwest and Tropics can experience a blow to the delicate ecosystem with increased pests and reduced biodiversity.
The Natural Resource Defense Council released a survey that showed fifty-five percent of Latinos were “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” about climate change. This high level of concern is due to the Latino overrepresentation in locations that are already experiencing effects caused by climate change. Latinos in California are seeing more wild fires and extreme droughts and those in Florida are seeing an increase in sea-levels and frequency of hurricanes. Another survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that 84 percent of African-Americans in Atlanta, Cleveland, and Philadelphia want to see action by the federal government to address climate change as exposures from pollutants from non-renewable energy sources are leading to a high rate of asthma. Increase competition on already stressed water sources, threats to infrastructures from rising sea levels and erosions, and devastating heat waves can threaten human health and wellbeing, making climate change and important issue in the upcoming presidential campaign.
By Gregory Kolen II. Did you know that CHEJ offers audio discussions for you to listen to? The Fighting to Win podcast hosted by the