Climate Change Needs a Spotlight at Presidential Debates

The West Coast of the United States is currently plagued by one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, with 2020 containing three of the four largest blazes in California history. Along with this, the Midwest was slammed with a derecho in early August that destroyed infrastructure and left more than one million homes and businesses without power across Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

Some may say that the U.S. has just suffered bad luck with the weather over the past two months, or like President Trump, some may believe that wildfires can solely be attributed to a lack of forest management. However, storms and wildfires are getting more severe across the country with every passing year, and this can be attributed to climate change. 

According to Alan Czarnetzki, a meteorologist at the University of Northern Iowa, the warming of the Earth’s surface can increase atmospheric instability. Czarnetzki says that this atmospheric instability has the possibility to increase the likelihood and strength of storms such as derechos and hurricanes. While research conducted by the Climate Science Special Report shows that the warmer and drier conditions, increased drought and a longer fire season caused by climate change increase wildfire risk and severity. 

Now, why is this important?

The impact of climate change on extreme weather is clearly severe, and the U.S. cannot afford for this situation to get worse. Between loss of human life, billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure, the loss of irreplaceable heirlooms in homes and more, the increase of severe weather could have detrimental effects, which is why there needs to be more focus on climate change in the presidential debates.

Tuesday’s presidential debate was nothing short of embarrassing. Both former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump failed to engage in civil discourse about any of their policies, hurling personal insults at each other instead. Climate change is largely considered a second-tier issue, which makes its presence in the presidential debate uncommon. However, while the fact that climate change was simply touched on in the debate is exciting for environmentalists, the few words the candidates did say about climate change were extremely disheartening.

President Trump refused to acknowledge that climate change existed. He briefly stated that he wants clean water and air for Americans, despite his own administration rolling back over 100 environmental rules targeted at providing clear air and water to supposedly unburden the fossil fuel industry. In addition to this, when asked to address the wildfires along the West Coast, he went on the offensive and attacked California’s forest management programs, blaming “the poor management” for the hundreds of thousands of acres burned in the state every year during wildfire season.

However, President Trump failed to realize that only 3% of California forests are state owned, with the federal government owning the most land with 57% of forests falling under their jurisdiction. 

While Biden acknowledged the existence of climate change, his responses to debate moderator Chris Wallace’s questions were also lacking luster. Biden discussed the Biden Plan for Environmental Justice, specifically outlining his plan to retrofit four million buildings and reach carbon-free electricity by 2035. These plans sound promising, but Biden shocked viewers when he refused to support the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution aimed at solving climate change, despite his support being listed on his policy website. The Green New Deal is considered largely by Democrats, even Biden’s own campaign, to be extremely crucial in facing the ongoing climate change issues. Therefore, Biden’s solution to climate change was extremely disappointing. 

The United States is suffering because of climate change, and something must be done. The West Coast is burning. The Midwest was wrecked. It’s only a matter of time before a hurricane slams into the East Coast and Southern U.S.

Presidential debates cannot favor insults over discussion of policy. It is time that both candidates, and the debate moderators, prepared for a real conversation about climate change before it is too late. Climate change needs to be solved now, and the American people deserve to know which President will save them.