Climate Change 2020: An Issue Worth Thinking About

With the election recently having taken place, many of us have taken our stand on countless issues, forming our different, and sometimes controversial, opinions around them. If there was one thing this year has taught me, it would be to “expect the unexpected”. Many drastic and unpredictable events took place this year, and sometimes it could be difficult for us to train our focus on only one of them. Amidst everything going on out there, I wanted to take the time to center on one issue that I find important in today’s society: climate change. 

  1. 1. The political standpoint.

    According to Pew Research, 42% of registered voters consider climate change as a highly important issue when voting, and 60% of Americans envision climate change as a vast threat to the well-being of the U.S. We can clearly observe that many Americans show concern for our environment, and it seems as if the two main presidential candidates of 2020 cannot find common ground when discussing the issue of climate change. 

    On one hand, President Trump has undermined the effects of climate change. Throughout his four years in office, the Trump administration has reversed a total of 84 major environmental policies. Working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency, these rollbacks have weakened limits on carbon dioxide emissions, removed pollution controls on wetlands, reduced mercury controls, and limited wildlife protections. 

    On the other hand, President Elect Biden has voiced progressive plans to combat climate change, which includes having net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the elimination of carbon pollution from the electric sector by 2035. 

  2. 2. Environment vs. economy. 

    As the government attempts to balance the political-environmental scale, they also face the economy as a major tradeoff to climate change reform. Due to COVID-19, many Americans have been hit by financial hardship and job loss. According to Pew Research, about one-half of U.S. adults who were laid off due to the coronavirus remain unemployed. 

    The main problem to consider is how much it will cost to fight climate change, and whether it is less than if we avoid fighting it altogether. 

    Along with the rollback on emissions rules, the Trump administration presented calculations that what is known as the “social cost of carbon” would be very low, depicting that each ton of carbon dioxide emissions from a car or coal plant in 2020 would only cost between $1 and $7 in economic damages. This view has later been rejected by the government’s scientists. Mr. Trump has also maintained the mindset of protecting the fossil fuel and coal industries in order to preserve jobs. 

    Mr. Biden has proposed a four-year $2 trillion plan with the main objective of enhancing health and economic benefits, such as cleaner air and new industries, despite criticism that fossil fuel industries will be negatively affected. 

  3. 3. The clock is ticking. 

    person holding small globe

    While ongoing debates can be compelling, time is just as valuable as the preservation of the global environment. The longer we wait, the more damage is being done. Over the next 25 to 30 years, scientists claim that the climate will get warmer, acquiring more extreme weather. Coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef are beginning to die, and the sea level is rising at a rate of about one foot per century, and it could be set to increase unless emissions are stopped. The effects of the rising sea levels are increasingly being felt with natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. Furthermore, if action is delayed, the continuation of global warming would result in more deaths by heatwaves, an increase in refugee flow, food and water shortages, and collapsing polar ice sheets. 

  4. 4. Next steps: what can we do?

    You can always start small - doing things like reducing water waste, wasting less food, and driving fewer miles can go a long way. Of course, having a general understanding of this issue is also essential. Doing your research on climate change and educating others around you is one way to spread awareness. 

    This brings me to my last point: don’t forget to speak up! If you care deeply about a certain issue, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Especially during a historic time of political commotion, there is no better opportunity than to share with the world what you believe in. 

To learn more about climate change, click here.