The deadly absence of climate talk from the 2016 election

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off stage as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump puts his notes away after the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016.  Despite numerous opportunities, neither candidate has directly addressed climate change. (John Locher/ AP)

As the 2016 election cycle begins to come to a long, overdue close, it is important to reminisce on all of the things that were said time and time again during the candidates’ campaign for office.

Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” were some of the major highlights, while other popular topics included U.S. immigration policies and Obamacare. However, as important as it is to remind yourself of all of the affairs the candidates have discussed before casting your vote on Nov. 8, it is equally important to think about the many other topics they left out.

Our environmental health is an issue that has been plaguing not only the United States, but also the entire world for years, and continues to worsen as time goes on. However, despite the continuous decline, this topic was barely discussed during the 2016 debate cycle. In fact, according to an article on grist.org, topics centering on climate change were only allotted five minutes and twenty-seven seconds, a mere two percent of the total time of the three debates combined.

This absence of climate change does not apply strictly to this election, but has lacked for the past four election cycles as well. The most time this topic has received within the last 20 years was during the 2000 election, when it was covered for 14 minutes and three seconds. During the 2012 campaign race between Obama and Mitt Romney, the environment was not even brought up once during the entire race.

So if the candidates this year have not been talking about climate change, other than to claim it was created by China (http://www.businessinsider.com/clinton-trump-environment-policies-plans-climate-change-platforms-2016-9), what topics have they deemed more important? During the few moments when the candidates were not bickering, the major topics covered in the 2016 debates included national security, immigration and the national debt; because as we all know our country’s debt will be everybody’s biggest concern when Florida is underwater due to the melting polar ice caps.

It is not to say that our national security and economy are not important issues, it is just that our environment matters more, especially with the direction it keeps heading toward. We need to care about topics that might not affect us directly now, but will seriously impact the prosperity and abilities of future generations. According to a poll done by The Huffington Post, “94 percent of Americans believe our planet is warming,” but only “64 percent of people were concerned”. This past September was the hottest on record, according to NASA, and the 381st consecutive month to have an above average temperature. The entire world should be concerned.

The first step in being able to halt the decline that our environment is experiencing is to make people aware of the problem. This is a topic that needs to be discussed, and it needs to be done when people are listening. The lack of climate change coverage in this year’s election only perpetuates the false idea that we do not have a problem with the state of our environment. By barely mentioning it at all throughout a campaign cycle as widely publicized as this, our country has missed out on one of the best opportunities to educate our people on an issue that will affect generations to come.

It was shameful to begin with, that this election has garnered more slander and malice than any previous election to date, and the neglect given to a life threatening issue such as global climate change only adds to this shame. The lack of attention, or even acknowledgement, from either candidate to publicly discuss our environment only serves to mislead voters and disregard the potentially biggest problem our world has ever faced. As a country, we need to talk about this issue. If we are going to embrace our environment, we need our politicians to do so as well. We need to come up with solutions because pretty soon, it will be too late.


Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.