Point/Counterpoint: Climate change is an election issue

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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With a myriad of domestic and foreign policy topics for voters to weigh in on this November, will climate change even make the list?

Vote for our future

What’s more rewarding than a breath of fresh air? Not a lot. Regardless, I don’t want to be forced to find out. This election cycle is focusing heavily on the economics of the nation and our foreign policy instead of our ecosystem. From the Danube to the Swedish mountains, Europe has proven renewable energy can be, and is, economically viable. So why hasn’t it caught on here? Politics.

Gritty, polarized, uncompromising politics. The kind of politics that sticks people to ideology instead of evaluating new situations with a clear eye. It’s unfortunate that the environment has become something of a political chess piece, championed by the Democrats and denied by the Republicans. This land is your land, my land, and desperately needs the attention it deserves.

A new boom of American oil has paid dividends to the job market and shareholders alike, but at what cost? Groundwater pollution, dangerous air pollutants, disrupted and destroyed ecosystems. As a nation, we are phenomenal at putting off today what we can do tomorrow. That’s a problem. We’ve waited long enough. Today is the day to make a change.

More importantly than today is election day. One can only do so much, and the institutions by which we are governed are the only vehicle capable of stopping the ravaging of Mother Nature by a society determined to squeeze every penny from her before she becomes a useless husk.

Show up on Election Day informed on the candidates. Look closely at their track records with the environment, and look for signs that they mean business when it comes to preserving what we have left. I want my children to live in a country in which the rising water levels brought about by climate change don’t threaten their cities, in which their air is pure and water clean, in which their transportation and energy is reliant not on the destruction of their surroundings but on the innovation and technical prowess of their fellow citizens.

The future is sustainability. To stay competitive in the global economy, we need to protect our homes, our health, and our future. We can’t protect our land alone. The environment should be on your mind when you are in the voting booth, and the decision is yours to bring the United States into the 21st century or to continue the degradation of our resources.

— Jacob Prall

Don’t force the climate change issue

With the 2014 elections inching closer, both global and domestic affairs are reaching critical points.

Among these issues, for better or worse, climate change is at the bottom of the pile.

Russia is violating NATO and U.N. policies by inciting unrest in Ukraine. ISIS is beheading U.S. journalists. Tensions between Gaza and Israel are reaching a breaking point. Western Africa is stricken with an Ebola outbreak that, if left unchecked, could spread to many other countries. The collective debt owed by American college graduates for financial aid is larger than the credit-card debt owed by the entire nation. Instances of police brutality against young African-American males have incited public unrest in the small town of Ferguson, Missouri, and sparked a national conversation on the role of police. And voters feel helpless in the face of it all.

But elections are chances for voters to have their voices heard. They are chances for a citizenry to finally affect the policies of the nation by electing a representative Congress. They want to elect a Congress that will press the issues that they think demand attention, and climate change simply isn’t on that list. The American voting population won’t be able to look that far ahead into the future when there are so many critical issues that demand attention now.

And still, candidates and activists are trying — and failing — to politicize it. In a series of attack ads, billionaire Tom Steyer’s Super PAC accused Florida Gov. Rick Scott of benefitting from oil companies. Fact-checkers found this to be false, but Steyer presents this as fact. Steyer has recently run several ads attacking Iowa senate candidate Joni Ernst, contending that she sent jobs overseas by signing an anti-tax pledge, which Politifact also found to be false.

Steyer gave no more credence to the political truth surrounding the environment than he did to the political truth surrounding an attack-ad stereotype. During election time, political ads consistently lie or exaggerate the truth to appeal to voters’ raw emotions. Voters who see the ad attacking Ernst and think, “But I don’t want jobs going overseas,” are the same who see the ad attacking Scott and think, “But that means he has a conflict of interest.” If these ads were true, that wouldn’t be so bad.

But unfortunately, these ads showcase poor attempts to lie about the state of political discourse on the environment. Politicians are trying to use climate change as a wedge issue that will move voters to the polls come November. That they have to lie to even attempt to do so is clear evidence that the environment is the least of American voters’ worries this year. 

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