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Climate Change: The Forgotten Election Issue

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The breaking news is that, after one of the most divisive US Presidential campaigns in history, Donald Trump will be the next US President.

Over the next few days it will become clearer what this means for the climate and the environment, but it can only be seriously bad news.

As the dust settles on the result, it is worth noting that once again climate change was totally ignored in a US Presidential election.

“Of all the things that have come up during this election cycle — from immigration to the size of one candidates’ hands — one issue that didn’t get much air time was climate change,” noted NPR before the result.

“This election season has been unusual in a variety of ways. In one way, however, it’s been entirely normal, just like previous elections,” added an article by the respected climate commentator, David Roberts on Vox.com, earler this week. “To wit: Climate change didn’t come up.”

Roberts says it is “bat shit crazy” that something so significant was basically ignored by the media: “The stakes involved are almost unthinkably large. We can say, without hyperbole, that the effects of this election will be felt centuries from now. The potential suffering of millions of people is on the line.”

The contrast between the two candidates could not have been more stark, says Roberts: “A woman who has promised to see half a billion rooftop solar panels installed by the end of her first term is running against a man who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax.”

The media must take some of the blame on this. As Roberts notes, there was not a single moderator asked a single climate-related question in the three presidential debates.

Climate change was the elephant in the room during the debates.

Others are outraged too at the lack of coverage on the issue: “I’ve been shocked at the lack of questions on climate change. It really is fiddling while the world burns,” argues Kerry Emanuel, a leading climate scientist. “This is the great issue of our time and we are skirting around it. I’m just baffled by it.”

The Hollywood star, Leonardo DiCaprio, and producer of the film Before the Flood, has also recently criticised the lack of coverage of climate change in the US election, saying it was “completely unacceptable”.

The media failed in its job to hold Trump to account for his misinformed views on climate.

As Dave Roberts notes dryly: “To my knowledge, he’s never been seriously pushed or challenged to explain how the Chinese created a climate hoax, or why they would go to the trouble.”

Occasionally the media did write on climate change and the election. But often it was the specialist media or international media organisations.

It was outlets such as Mother Jones and Climate Wire that revealed back in September that Trump had proposed Myron Ebell, one of the most long standing vociferous climate deniers, as the head of his transition team for the EPA. His appointment would be a disaster for the climate.

Or it is international news media such as the Guardian or BBC that have raised concerns: “Electing a climate science conspiracy theorist like Trump would make America a global laughing stock and embarrassment, all the while relinquishing our leadership role in the world,” Khalid Potts from US environmental group, the Sierra Club told the BBC before result was called.

Potts added “The ice caps don’t negotiate, and neither do rising seas. Donald Trump’s moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster if he is elected.”

Indeed, there will be many people at the current climate talks in Marrakech who will be watching in horror at the events in the US, as Trump has vowed that America will pull out of the UN climate agreement.

Years of dogged, hard fought diplomacy to agree a climate agreement are now in deep, deep peril. We must not let Trump destroy our future and our children’s future.

We all have work to do.

 

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