Climate change is real. There is an objective, sweeping consensus throughout the scientific community that human activity is substantially responsible for the gradual warming of planet Earth. No longer do we have time to dispute the validity of this claim; this has no business being the argument that drives the climate change discussion anymore. The question of “if” this problem exists has migrated to the question of “how” we are going to assuage it. This conflict, unfortunately, is becoming destructive in its asininity that is perpetuated by members who still exist in the “climate change isn’t real” camp.
Donald Trump posted a thread of tweets on Sept. 4, beginning with “8 FACTS that #FakeNewsCNN will ignore in tonight’s ‘Climate Forum.’” His tweets praise America regarding carbon emission reduction, clean water and air and energy production. Trump implicates the Democratic Party and the Paris Climate Agreement for their lack of regard for American lives and personal costs, declaring their courses of action as “flawed” and “destructive.”
It is no secret that generally, the stances people hold on climate change are dictated by political partisanship. Author Paul Edwards says that “[d]espite the knowledge consensus, the period since 1990 has been marked by extraordinary political controversy” in his book A Vast Machine, which explores the history of climate change research.
But we as a nation, as a world and as a human race are simply not naive enough to pretend that this can only be a partisan issue and longer. Rather than meaningfully contribute to a conversation about a true crisis that occupied 10 Democratic presidential candidates this past week, Donald Trump would prefer to scrutinize his opposition merely for the sake of optics and rancour. This conversation, as meaningful and academic as it is, is happening on a singular side of the aisle.
Granted, some of those who are vocal about climate issues have crafted more sustainable and feasible approaches to this crisis than others. Many points of contention still remain within specific climate policies. Not every blue candidate personally enjoys Booker’s penchant for nuclear energy, Klobuchar’s slower approach to phasing out fossil fuels or Biden’s constant referral back to the good old Obama days. But at the end of the day, the Democrats have complete jurisdiction over the American climate discussion. This is the greatest danger of partisanship that threatens our nation today.
Donald Trump continues to do a huge disservice to the Americans who support him (and those who don’t) by shying away from the difficult task of global warming. The egregious executive decision of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 placed the health and safety of Americans on the back burner, and it assured other nations that the U.S. does not feel responsible for fighting climate change on a global scale. And while we have about a dozen politicians with grandiose environmental rescue plans at the ready, they do not work in the Oval Office. Instead, there sits a businessman who turned human lives into commerce and sits on the commodity of enormous potential. If he has a right to boast about how clean our water and air is, as he did on Twitter last week, then he has a responsibility to extend resources, support and a fighting spirit to the rest of the nations we share this earth with.
Climate change cannot be an opportunity for isolationism — not within our political system and certainly not internationally. Nations are bound to have competing interests, and the United States’ stake in a claim for sovereignty and respect among others needs to be bolstered by a united front. No such front can exist if one party has all of the ideas.
None of this is to say that the Democrats have perfected the hypotheticals of eradicating the climate crisis. There is naturally a need for refinement and greater specificity when dealing with legislative agendas that reach up to $16.3 trillion as Bernie Sanders’ does. Most climate change legislation intends to drastically alter American consumer culture regarding transportation, food and energy consumption among other areas. But even if many of these ideas seem outlandish and unreasonable, they are at least ideas.
This executive stagnance is uniquely frustrating, especially given the ever-shrinking time frame that threatens irreversible climate change in less than 11 years. The fact that action in the face of a truly dire situation has to come with the changing of party control in the White House simply because it relates to climate is unacceptable. This plea for self-interest to be put aside, conversation to be spurred and urgency to preside has exhausted itself. I relish the fact that as the days go by, the pressure to act is being applied with greater enthusiasm than ever. I just hope that something cracks under it before it’s too late.
Greta Maras is a freshman majoring in Political Science from Naperville, IL. She is a Hopkins Votes ambassador.