by Lilly Strieder
It is estimated that the state of Florida will be subaquatic in as little as a few decades. Extreme weather has prevailed in recent years more than ever before: we have polar vortexes, earthquakes, bigger hurricanes in unusual places, longer-lasting blizzards, flooding, droughts, etc. Yet Congress has done little to address climate change, the man-made cause of this madness. Instead, Congress is following its familiar approach of prolonged fighting with barely anything to show for it—tried and tested on gun control, unequal pay, and other social problems. The majority-holding GOP largely denies the existence of climate change and, therefore blocks whatever mitigating efforts it can. In the upcoming election, we have a choice between the Democrats, a party that is as concerned about the effects of our ever changing planet as we are, or the Republicans, a large number of whom either deny the scientific consensus around climate change or admit it and say it isn’t our problem. To the GOP, climate change is little more than a liberal hoax.
This level of ignorance is not unique to Trump, a coal-supporting man who ironically did not even mention the subject in his apocalypse themed RNC speech. Rather, climate denial has seeped into the party so deeply that it is the consensus at all levels. Take the case of the highest ranked person in the Senate, majority leader (and turtle) Mitch McConnell. It was only two years ago that he claimed, “For everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t.” Setting aside the fact that he clearly got his wording confused not for the first time: for everybody (collective; a lot of people) who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody (one person) who thinks it isn’t, the message that climate change is something someone can “believe in” is scary in the 2010s. Climate change is a fact beyond belief. This is not an “I feel it in my gut” issue; it has been proven by countless nonpartisan scientists.
House Speaker, Paul Ryan, who is up for reelection this year, portrayed a similar message. While he admitted that climate change is real, he claimed that it “occurs no matter what,” i.e it is not our fault nor our problem. As a student and activist who has committed lots of time to the political struggle to address climate change, this kind of ignorance makes me cringe at what the future might look like if we don’t vote them out of office. Looking up and down the GOP ticket, one finds similar messages from far too many.
Which brings me to their official party platform, a document in which the planet is referred to as a resource to be used by humans. As GOP politicians have long acted on behalf of their mission to attack the Democratic Party and the current administration at all costs, I was unsurprised to see that that was the primary focus of the platform as well. Instead of coming up with their own ideas, their attack was pretty much all that happened. According to them, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Kyoto Protocol, and others are all totally biased and cannot be trusted. These are all either international agreements made by several governments, or nonpartisan government agencies that act on behalf of the environment. Yet, they are, apparently, “dangerous” propaganda machines. Why waste time and energy on the environment when it is healthier now than in decades past is a question the platform points to more than once? In their “opinion” (never mind the facts), air pollution will go down without our help (weeping over cringing now).
Meanwhile, the Democratic party platform was, unsurprisingly, the exact opposite. As the singer of the 90s band, Third Eye Blind, yelled at GOP attendees of his concert, this is the party that “believes in science.” The first thing the Democrats said was that the United States must transition to 100% clean energy by mid-century. And they pointed out that despite what Republicans claim, such a transition would create many new jobs. This is logical, given that they advocate installing 500 million solar panels within four years, acquiring 50% of all energy from cleaner sources in a decade, and investing more in public transportation. It will, of course, take a lot of people to make this happen.
In the document, the Democratic Party declared its support for a number of practical and effective solutions to climate change (not just ranting about their opposition), such as “reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2025 through common-sense standards for both new and existing sources and replacing thousands of miles of leaky pipes.” They hope to create better infrastructure and applaud President Obama for not supporting the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline. Moreover, the party acknowledges that low-income and tribal communities experience air and water pollution more intensely, which leads to more health and economic struggles.
In their 3 ½ page section on climate change, the Democrats lay out concrete plans to address coal workers, lead poisoning, the climate, public lands etc., each of which are common-sense plans for a decent society. Unlike the GOP platform, the Democratic Party platform acknowledges the science of the issue and offers up a plan to, quite literally, save the world from this actual apocalypse-causing disaster already in the making. While the number of GOP climate deniers in Congress has reportedly risen from 169 to 180, we all have to take action to strip these corrupt politicians of their power. Let’s start on November 8th.
Environmental Caucus Legislative Chair: Lilly Strieder, Wellesley
Lilly Strieder is pleased to be back in environmental politics after her internship last summer at the Environmental Voter Project. A Tampa, Florida native, Lilly began her political life as the youngest accepted fellow and intern at the headquarters of Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Since that exciting election night, she has worked as a class organizer, as well as the blog manager and editor of Wellesley Students for Hillary. She also held a fellowship on the campaign. When not working in the political sphere, Ms. Strieder is an English Major at Wellesley College, where she recently won the department's top prize for writing, and is completing the Environmental Sustainability Certificate Program. Her commitment to sustainability goes deep, as during her high school years she was selected to lead a team of students to Thailand, China, and Laos to help make their schools more environmentally sustainable. A trained ballet dancer, she danced professionally for many years and now is with Harvard Ballet Company. Her other credits include writing, stage managing, performing, choreographing, and interning at the famed Second City in Chicago, in addition to other theatres both there and in Boston.