Today is the most important day in the history of US climate politics
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Tonight is the last debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Tonight’s also the very first time that a presidential debate will feature a section on climate change as part of its pre-set agenda. America (and the world, frankly) will be anticipating what is said tonight about climate change in a way that has no parallel in history.
Although the stakes are enormously high, the outcome of tonight is already clear: Either we will elect the candidate with the boldest climate agenda of any presidential nominee in US history or we will re-elect a climate denier. Either way, it’s the most important day ever for climate in the United States.
Tonight’s the last chance for the candidates to make their case on who will run the country until 2025 – halfway through a decade that simply must be transformative in order for the world to have a good shot to preserve a habitable planet in our lifetime.
Not to exaggerate, today is the single most important day of the past 30 years when it comes to determining the course the US takes on climate change. More important than Bush v Gore. More important than Obama’s election night speech. More important than the day we signed the Paris agreement.
That’s because the movement is in place now. All Biden has to do is make the case.
Even in the middle of the pandemic and the recession, polls have consistently shown that climate change is one of, if not the very top issue for Democrats this year. Even in places like dark red Indiana, not even a swing state this year, 70% of voters think we should be doing more to address climate change.
Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan is no Green New Deal, but it is even bolder than Bernie Sanders’ 2016 climate platform. And it is wildly popular nationwide. In fact, other than emergency stimulus to support working families amid one of the most severe recessions in US history and a publicly-funded healthcare system in the middle of a pandemic, Joe Biden’s climate plan – a $2 trillion initiative to massively invest in renewable energy and environmental justice – is currently the most popular policy idea in the country right now.
That might seem shocking at first glance, but it’s a shift that’s been decades in the making. Climate action might be polarized, but it’s no longer controversial. It’s something almost everyone wants. Which makes the gulf between Biden and Trump on this issue absolutely enormous – and makes talking about climate a hugely winning issue for Democrats.
The combination of a racial uprising, climate disasters on an unimaginable scale, and the complete and abject contempt that Trump and Republicans have had for our health and wellbeing during the pandemic has helped the climate issue crystalize into a moment for transformational change. The status quo can’t continue anymore.
Yesterday, in Barack Obama’s first in-person campaign rally of the election, the former President went in hard on climate change in a preview of the final pitch to swing state voters. It was very encouraging to see, and exactly what every Democrat should be doing right now.
Don’t get me wrong. All of this is long overdue. Scientists have been certain of the catastrophic effects of climate change for a very long time, and the denial and delay of politicians of all has led us to the brink.
But from the looks of it, the Democrats have finally begun to wake up. Pushed by groups like the Sunrise Movement, the Democratic Party has shifted radically leftward on climate over the past four years, and are at last treating the issue like the systematic emergency it is.
Malcolm Kenyatta is a Pennsylvania State Representative and the Pennsylvania Co-Chair of Climate Power 2020, a political organization focused on making climate a central issue of the campaign. Like many Democrats, he’s absolutely convinced that talking about climate is one of the most important things Democrats can do to win the White House.
“Meeting this moment is key to addressing racial equity and income inequality as poor folks and people of color are hit first and worst by this emergency. And Joe Biden’s plan makes clear not only can we do he morally right thing of preserving our planet for future generations, but we can create millions of good paying union jobs along the way, said Kenyatta. “President Obama’s focus on this issue in the biggest battle ground state in the election is further proof. Good policy is good politics.”
During his candidacy, Joe Biden has shown that he’ll lead with compassion and will listen, if reluctantly, to the demands of climate activists. He’s stopped treating it like a science issue and started treating it like a justice and human rights issue. If elected, he’ll be the best shot we have of preserving the planet’s life as we know it.
All of that is on the line today.