Alice Wilson-McNeal looks at the impact of the Presidential Race on, perhaps the greatest contemporary issue facing humanity; climate change.
The majority of us in the UK, and certainly the majority of young people, are downright terrified of what would happen if Donald Trump ended up becoming “the most powerful man in the free world”. The Republican frontrunner has been very vocal about climate change, but for all the wrong reasons. He’s called it a hoax, a money-making industry, and is either deliberately deceptive when it comes to the science or simply doesn’t understand it or care to try. Whilst the thought of a man like this in charge of one of the biggest carbon-producing nations is terrifying, what’s even worse is the fact that none of the remaining Republican candidates believe that humanity is having a significant impact on climate change.
This isn’t conjecture. Ted Cruz, Jon Kasich, and Marco Rubio have respectively called man-made climate change pseudoscientific, claimed it is unproven and without consensus, and voted against stating that human activity is a significant contributor. Whilst in science nothing can ever be proven beyond any doubt, multiple peer-reviewed studies show that at least 95% of publishing climate scientists believe that human activity is very likely to have caused warming trends over the last century. To claim that there is no consensus when the vast majority of scientific institutions worldwide state their belief in it is at best grossly misguided, and at worst intentionally misleading.
Only 26% of self-identified Republicans doubt the existence of climate change, according to a University of Michigan poll. So why are the most important people in their party so set against the science? The answer is probably time and money. A presidential term is only four years, two of which are spent campaigning for the next. Voters won’t see the effects of most environmental legislation in such a short time frame. They’ll see how much money has been spent, though, which is easy for the opposition to twist and call a waste. Many voters and politicians are more focussed on the economy in the short term than the environment a decade from now, even though the goods and benefits we get from well-balanced ecosystems are priceless; things like clean air and oceans combined with the value of tourism and natural products are estimated to be worth more than global GDP all together.
There’s a very good chance that one of these men will be leading the U.S. by the end of the year, and there’s not a lot we can do about that from this side of the Atlantic. The science has spoken, the people are heading the same way, and all we can hope is that their future President will learn to listen.