Opinion

Environment Deserved More Attention During Presidential Campaign

Photo courtesy of Joe Brusky

As early as elementary school, environmental science classes help to educate future generations on how every action we carry out affects our environment.

But still, so many people remain willfully ignorant of the fact that climate change is directly affecting our lives as I speak.

This issue has been illustrated by the lack of discussion about the environment in this year’s presidential race. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump called climate change a Chinese hoax, and he even proposed ending all federal clean energy development and spending.

It’s safe to say that a Trump presidency will be a clean energy nightmare.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton attempted to place more importance on the environment, vowing to carry out the promises President Barack Obama made at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Clean coal, despite technological improvements, remains an oxymoron. Truly clean energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, will still lower costs and cause less harm to our environment. We can also train workers in the growing industries of solar energy and wind energy.

Nevertheless, a promise is not the same as an implemented plan.

Regardless of each candidate’s stance, the haunting reality is that the environment is low on the list of political issues throughout the U.S. government.

Some might argue that we shouldn’t care about the environment when terrorism poses immediate threats, and about 45 million Americans live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Taking other pressing issues into consideration, it would make sense that climate change wasn’t at the forefront of the campaign.

But what these politicians and many Americans fail to see is that climate change is an immediate threat.

The fact that 38 million Californians are living in a five-year drought is an immediate issue, according to a report by the California Department of Water Resources in February 2015.

Alaska’s highways built on permafrost are sinking twice as fast as they were in the 1950s, according to the U.S. Arctic Research Commission Permafrost Task Force Report.

According to the American Lung Association, 166 million Americans live in counties where they are exposed to unhealthy levels of pollutants with air quality conditions below national air quality standards.

The effects of climate change are not looming off in the distance. The problems exist now, and they demand immediate attention.

Climate change was only briefly noted in each of the three presidential debates.

In the first debate, the issue was brought up when Clinton accused Trump of not believing in climate change.

It was discussed in the second debate when audience member Ken Bone asked how each nominee would shape policy regarding the loss of jobs in the energy industry.

The question should have focused on climate change as a whole, but the economy took precedence over the environment in this past election.

Part of Trump’s response to the question was, “Now, I’m all for alternative forms of energy … But we need much more than wind and solar … And you look at our miners. Hillary Clinton wants to put all the miners out of business.”

The blame games during the debates prevented any real discussion on how our only home is rapidly being depleted.

Global average temperatures have increased at an average of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, according to NASA.

In addition, sea levels have risen by 6 inches in the 20th century, according to Climate Central, and tens of thousands of species are going extinct each year.

Given these circumstances, Trump must prioritize our environment.

Environmental issues were pushed aside during the election, but our new president has the chance to turn things around and improve the environment; there is no other choice.

If we want future generations to know what glaciers are and to be able to walk outside without wearing masks, we must push our politicians to act now.