While the Republican and Democratic Parties disagree on most things these days, nothing epitomizes the significant divide more than does climate change. And it’s not just those who sit in Congress either. According to a recent Pew Research poll conducted in February of this year, among Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party, 78% said climate change should be a top priority.
However, among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, only 21% felt the same way. To put that in even more stark terms, Democrats view climate as a top priority by nearly three times that of Republicans.
And, it gets even worse when registered voters were asked whether climate change is a problem for the country today. 77% of Democrats/lean Democrat said yes, it was a huge problem, and 17% said it was a moderately big problem—a net of 94%. On the flip side, Republicans/lean Republican answered 13/27% for a net of 41%.
The thing is, it wasn’t always this way, at least as it pertained to the two political parties in D.C. In the 1970s, both sides of the aisle generally agreed that clean air and water were a good thing. There was widespread agreement back then, with bi-partisanship voting being a common occurrence. Remember, it was Republican President Richard Nixon who signed major environmental legislation into law, including the Clean Air and Water Acts, as well as the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
So what the hell happened? In the 1990s, the divide began to widen, and differences started to boil over. And much of that division can be traced, without a doubt, to the political lobbying of the fossil fuel industry, which is now firmly in control of the Republican Party. Up until the early 2000s, the contributions were split evenly between the two parties. However, according to the transparency group OpenSecrets, by the 2018 election cycle, a whopping 87% of industry contributions went to Republicans.
The days when Republican presidents like Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt led on environmental protection and establishing national parks are over my friends. We’re in a new era where intense lobbying efforts, and an out of control campaign finance system has relegated our politics to one of gridlock and partisan bickering. And one of the most troubling results is the fact that we are not adequately dealing with the climate change situation, nor the magnitude that is required to fix it. We need to be scaling up—not scaling down.
But with the election of Donald Trump in 2016, we’ve seen a dramatic rollback of environmental regulations the scale of which does not comport with previous Republican presidents. While George W. Bush relaxed rules put in by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, what Trump has done in this area makes Bush look like a tree-hugging liberal.
According to EcoWatch, nine conservation groups have named Trump “the worst president for our environment in history.” Some of these groups include Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, League of Conservation Voters, EDF Action, and the Sierra Club. In a statement released by the groups before Trump’s most recent State of the Union speech, they wrote:
“Donald Trump’s administration has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans … Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history. Unfortunately, our children will pay the costs of this president’s recklessness. Our organizations have repeatedly fought back against these attacks, and we will continue to fight to ensure that our kids don’t bear the brunt of the Trump administration’s anti-environmental agenda.”
If you want proof of Trump’s blatant disregard for the planet, according to The New York Times, as of December 21, 2019, the Trump administration had attempted to roll back more than 90 environmental rules and regulations, including:
*Replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that limited carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas plants. The action would let states make their own rules and could lead to as many as 1,400 additional air pollution deaths a year by 2030.
*Revoking California’s waiver to set its own vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.
*Changing how the Endangered Species Act is applied to make it harder to protect animals and plants from the climate crisis.
*Stripping protections from streams and wetlands that had been protected by the Obama administration.
These are but a few of Trump’s actions over the first 3.5 years of his presidency as it pertains to the environment. It’s not as if it’s a surprise, though. After all, one of his first actions was to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, which set the tone and direction for where Trump wanted to take the country. Remember, he thinks global warming is a hoax. Never forget that.
So what does this mean for you and me in 2020? If our current downward trend toward a climate catastrophe is something you care deeply about and want to help prevent, voting for Trump cannot be an option. The only option on this front is to vote for the Democratic nominee. And that’s going to be Joe Biden.
I get it. Supporters of Bernie Sanders do not want to hear that, but this is our reality. And, to be fair, the Senator’s supporters will state that Bernie’s backing of the Green New Deal shows how serious he is about climate change mitigation. Many are skeptical that Biden will make a difference—that he doesn’t take it seriously enough.
Look, Biden is more moderate than Sanders on most issues. We know that. But while he may not be as progressive as Sanders, he still is head and shoulders above Trump when it comes to the environment. It’s not even close. And let’s face it, one of the first things Biden said he would do is get us back in the Paris Agreement. That’s a good start.
I highly suggest heading over to JoeBiden.com for a more detailed plan on how he will address the urgent climate change crisis. Here are some of the highlights of his program:
*Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
*Build a stronger, more resilient nation by making smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the country and ensure our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.
*Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change by not only re-committing the United States to the Paris Agreement but go even further by leading an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic targets.
*Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.
*Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth.
*Make an essential investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice paid for by rolling back the Trump tax incentives that enrich corporations at the expense of American jobs and the environment.
No matter how you look at it, Biden is poised to reverse much of what Trump has done to our environment. Much of it will have to be done via executive action, unfortunately, because enacting legislation in this day and age is next to impossible on most issues. One caveat, however, is if the Democrats can retake the Senate and retain the House majority. Then the prospects for concrete action through the legislative process becomes much better.
So if the environment and the earth are important to you, and if you think climate change is an existential threat to our future and way of life, I sincerely hope you remember that, as you contemplate your vote in November. There are many other issues to consider, and I understand that. But we cannot take a chance on four more years of Trump’s blatant degradation and disregard of our fragile planet.
And please remember this. If Biden wins the presidency, and he doesn’t address our concerns adequately, we can change him. We can push him more to the left if we have to. The former Vice-President has been around the block a few times. He knows how to play the game, and he has a chance, a real possibility, to be one of the most transformational presidents we’ve ever had.
But that only happens if we turn out and vote. First things first.
One final note. As we go through one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history, with a pandemic staring down at us, believe it or not, there’s one positive that’s already bearing fruit—albeit a temporary one at that.
While certainly not the way to go about achieving reductions, it appears that the social distancing and other measures to address Covid-19 are giving us some of the most significant drops in CO2 emissions in years. Satellite photos of China show that the country’s pollution levels have fallen dramatically.
Imagine a time where we eventually are done with fossil fuels. Imagine a time where the reductions we see now become the new reality. Imagine us, as a country and world, beginning to reverse or stabilize what’s coming our way in terms of a climate catastrophe.
Imagine, yes. However, if you do not vote on November 3, or you think writing in a candidate as a form of protest is a choice, then forget about what could be possible. Because the reality of what you’re doing is helping Donald Trump win another four years. Our planet deserves better. You deserve better.