Column: Presidential candidates must recognize global warming as real issue

(Khuroshvili Ilya/Creative Commons)

Global warming has been an issue garnering much attention over the years and currently with increased intensity. Most scientists support climate change and have the evidence to back it up, yet there are still politicians in the United States with a widespread platform who disagree with it. 

The danger with the upcoming election is that the issues at stake are not merely ones bound to a decade, but issues of our world’s ultimate health. This moment in human history is critical to our planet’s survival. 

Based on data from October 2015, the earth has warmed around 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, which helps explain why ice around the world is melting, in turn raising the levels of the world’s oceans, according to the New York Times. The article went on to say that “scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.”

The two leading candidates in the Republican primary race both deny the validity of global warming and thus don’t believe in taking action to counter it. In 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In an interview with NPR, candidate Ted Cruz spoke similarly about climate change, saying, “this is liberal politicians who want government power over the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives…The scientific evidence doesn't support global warming.” 

The Pope made a statement/encyclical on global warming, saying it is a moral issue. Prominent U.S. politicians Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum and Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the US Senate Environment Committee, denied the Pope’s philosophy. Senator Inhofe said, "I am concerned that his encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation's history,” according to BBC.

According to the New York Times, over the next 25-30 years the effects of climate change won’t be too dramatic, but if we don’t begin curbing global warming and rising emissions now, scientists warn of potential collapsing governments, refugees, extinction of plants and animals and melted ice caps that will ultimately cause flooding in most coastal cities. 

The tough duality between the long-term perspective compared the shortsightedness that many politicians have in order to get elected is unfortunate. 

Unlike some politicians, 97 percent or more of “actively publishing climate scientists” agree that the change in climate recorded over the past century is very likely due to humans, according to NASA.

When looking at public opinion on the matter, stances on global warming don’t coincide between scientists and the American public. The New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future’s nationwide survey concerning global warming shows most Americans believe global warming to be a credible issue, but at less than 97 percent. 

When asked if unchecked global warming would be a future problem for the U.S., 20 percent answered “not so serious” or “not serious at all,” and when asked about its effects on the world, 16 percent said “not so serious” or “not serious at all.” 

There is a clear disparity between the roughly three percent of scientists/experts who deny global warming as a serious threat to the planet and the percentage of Americans who deny it – between 16 and 20 percent. 

Two theories come to mind regarding this disparity – the first theory is that our politicians are spreading ideas of climate change denial, which results in Americans viewing it as a political issue rather than one of scientific fact. The second theory is that some Americans truly don’t care about global warming if it won’t affect them personally, for in the same New York Times survey, 44 percent of Americans said that they don’t think global warming will hurt them personally in their lifetime. 

The U.S. is one of the leading forces when it comes to unifying the world around curbing our atmospheric pollution. This election will determine whether we elect a candidate who will fight for the environment or one who feels as if it’s a government conspiracy.   

As important as it is to do our individual part in being environmentally friendly and conscious in our daily activities, substantial change will come from policies that promote renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. One such promotion is energy efficient transportation, which will decrease the amount of cars that use internal-combustion engines, according to the New York Times. 

This planet is the only one we’ve got and the U.S. was founded on the principle of the government being the voice of the people. With elections coming up, the American people can choose the leader of arguably the most powerful nation in the world during a time of environmental turmoil.

We are the generation to counteract the effects of climate change so that future generations have a chance of prospering, but change can only be effective if we speak up.


Brett Steinberg is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brett.steinberg@uconn.edu. He tweets @officialbrett.