The Future Of Our Planet Is On The Ballot

Where do the candidates stand on climate change?
Earth (Scott Kelly/NASA via AP)

Earth (Scott Kelly/NASA via AP)

Climate change is the most significant existential threat facing humanity. The majority of Americans are concerned about this issue. With this in mind, you’d expect it to be at the center of our political conversation. It’s not. Not a single question was asked about climate change by the moderators at any of the three Presidential debates. The closest thing we got was a question on energy policy in the second debate.

Although, there are some great online publications covering the topic, overall the media coverage on climate has been piss poor. We’ve barely heard about the candidates’ climate policies, and if you only watch cable news, you wouldn’t know either candidate had a policy at all. This has been a disservice to the American people. So, here’s what you need to know:

Why Is Climate Change So Important?

2016 is on pace to be the hottest year in recorded history. 97% of climate scientists believe this rapid global warming is being caused by human activities. And just this past September, Earth passed the dreaded carbon tipping point of 400 ppm.

The long-term effects of this rapid global warming will be catastrophic. The rising of our sea levels, massive floods, stronger hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, the list goes on. This past summer, the first mammal went extinct due to climate change. If these warming trends continue at the rate they are currently trending, large regions like North Africa and the Middle East could become uninhabitable by the end of this century, creating an unprecedented migration crisis. It is indisputable that climate change will affect every level of our existence.

I know. That sounds depressing as hell, but there is still hope.

The world’s nations have awoken to the importance of this issue. Just this morning, the Paris Climate Change Agreement became international law. So far 96 countries, which account for 2/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions, have signed the agreement. This pact seeks to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Each nation has committed to implementing climate action plans that will reduce emissions and boost clean renewable energy like wind, solar and hydropower. Obama has been a champion of this agreement and many other climate initiatives throughout his presidency. So where does the next President stand?

Hillary Clinton On Climate Change

Clinton aligns with the 97% scientific consensus that our rapid climate change is being influenced by human activities. The central premise of her policy, as she puts it, is to make America “the clean energy superpower.”

Her policy entails: Putting standards in place for energy companies to cut waste and reduce emissions, a goal to power every home by installing half a billion solar panels by the end of her first term, reduce oil consumption by more than a third through more efficient vehicles, and large investments in clean infrastructure, manufacturing, and workforce development. She argues that not only will her initiatives combat the effects of climate change, they will also be great for our economic growth.

Clinton supports the Paris Agreement and said she will uphold the Obama Administration’s commitment. She also plans to push her climate legislation despite the unfounded skepticism of Republican congressmen.

This all culminating in the promise that she will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 and put the country on a path to cut emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.

Donald Trump On Climate Change

Despite the almost unanimous consensus within the scientific community Trump, along with his Republican colleagues (fueled by lobbyist money from fossil fuel companies), do not believe in scientific fact. Trump has said he believes global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese. He has since doubled down on his hoax assertions on multiple occasions.

This notion is reflected in his energy policy. The central idea of his self-proclaimed “America First Energy Plan” is to make America energy independent through a reduction of environmental regulations, increased drilling for shale oil, encouraging the use of natural gas, and a renewed investment in coal mining.

His proposal concludes with a promise to reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.

Trump opposes the Paris Agreement and has said he would pull out if he were to be elected President. He argues that the agreement “gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use.” If America, one of the leading greenhouse gas emitters, were to pull out of the agreement, it would severely damage the effectiveness of the initiative.

China rarely comments on the politics of other nations, but this week Xie Zhenhua, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration in China, spoke out criticizing Trump’s plan to pull out of the agreement.

How Their Policies Will Effect Our Planet

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s stances on climate change is about as black and white as it gets. Their two energy policies are grounded in one distinct differentiating factor: Clinton knows human activity is expediting rapid climate change and Trump does not. This central difference in opinion flows throughout their respective policies.

Clinton wants to enforce environmental regulations and Trump wants to eliminate them. Clinton wants to invest heavily in renewable sources of energy and Trump wants to invest in greater production of non-renewable fossil fuels. Clinton wants to remain part of the Paris Agreement, and Trump wants to pull out.

So how will there policies affect Earth? Luckily, we don’t have to speculate. Lux Research, an independent research firm, conducted a study. They concluded that a Trump Presidency could mean 3.4 Billion tons of more U.S. carbon emissions than a Clinton presidency, undoing the reduction in emissions that occurred under the Obama Administration.

According to climate scientists, increased emissions will expedite the catastrophic effects of climate change. When it comes to combating these effects, the choice between the candidates is clear.

News // 2016 Election / Climate Change / Donald Trump / Hillary Clinton