Two evenings in March of 2016 taught me much of what I ever needed to know about Presidential politics, as well as a few things I wish none of us had to ever learn. That spring provided our community and country an amazing opportunity to discuss what is easily the most important challenge that my generation will ever face during our time here on earth: our global climate crisis. That’s when both the Republican and Democratic Party each held nationally televised debates right here in Miami amongst the then six remaining candidates.
Climate change was, as it is today, on a great many people’s minds and yet the media and most of the candidates failed America in 2016. Over the course of those two nights and their four hours of nationally televised “debate”, the candidates spent just 9½ minutes discussing climate change. And what did the national media do to address the most important topic of our time? They asked just two questions, one each night. Talk about a “fail”.
The topic was so overlooked that on one of those nights the question on climate did not surface until 1½ hours into the two hour event. To say it was not a priority to the candidates or media is an understatement and was, in many ways, educational to my then 16 year old self. You can read more about those debates in a blog that I wrote at the time entitled 9½ Minutes by clicking here.
Fast forward three years and three months later and we have a candidate, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who is largely running on one single topic: protecting our environment with a specific focus on our climate change crisis. Something tells me that the good Governor himself might just spend more than 9½ minutes on the topic later this week whether the journalists prompt him to or not.
We also now have the New Green Deal, a potentially transformational prospective plan to address our climate crisis that’s being embraced by many of the Democratic candidates.
And perhaps most importantly, each of the candidates, all 20 that will appear on television from Miami later this week, are openly and often even aggressively talking about their plans to address climate change. More than half of them have pledged to not accept money from fossil fuel businesses. All have created plans to address the issue.
In 2016 two candidates, Senator Cruz from oil rich Texas, and the man who shockingly became President, Donald Trump, unsurprisingly never even mentioned climate change. That can’t happen this or next year. At every debate, starting with this week’s two Democratic events here in Miami, the media must press the candidates to speak to the issue. Journalists and candidates have a moral obligation to my generation and all that shall follow to address this topic and make it the priority. Almost 100% of democratic voters believe that our climate change crisis is a matter of great importance to our country and, thus, I hope that NBC News, which is moderating, will act like it understands that people want to hear candidates address the issue. Rather than bury it deep into the night, how about we start each evening’s questions here in Miami by discussing climate change?
In the time since being elected, President Trump and his administration have done everything possible to embrace fossil fuel producers and polluters, roll back America’s Clean Power Plan, pull out of the Paris Climate Acord, tout “clean coal” (there is no such thing, it’s a lie) and diminish scientists and the science, including the Administration’s very own November 2018 National Climate Assessment that (once again) made clear that earth is warming and humans’ use of fossil fuels are the key cause. In places all over America, and especially here in South Florida, we no longer have room for such nonsense. We can’t allow Republicans to sell their souls and our future by supporting gas and coal in return for polluted votes. We must (and we can) elect leaders at all levels of our government that support the absolute elimination of fossil fuel use within my lifetime and, in doing so, transition our economy to sustainable energy. Time is running out.
The stakes over this issue are much greater than those votes in coal and gas rich states or, for that matter, the brief time one would hold an elected office. And, yes, even in those states that still rely on coal and gas, a future of clean, well-paying jobs in sustainable energy should be seen as part of the solution in regions that are often desperate for hope. And, of course, the very survival of places like where this week’s debates will actually be held (South Florida) is also at stake and we need to be discussing that before our region disappears under water to the point where future debates can’t be held here.
So come on NBC News and the 20 assembled candidates that will be in sunny South Florida this week, show us that things are different in 2019! Show us that you are truly serious about taking bold steps to solve our climate crisis and helping transform America. Dig deep and get away from the sound bites and prove that you understand what’s at stake as our climate warms. Voters are watching and this time we expect more than 9½ lousy minutes on the topic that defines our generation.