What About Climate Change?

As the Presidential Election season begins to draw to a close, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been aggressively campaigning across the United States. As a college student voting in her first presidential election, I’ve tried my best to stay updated and educated on the candidates’ platforms. But after watching all three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, I was discouraged that no candidate was asked how she or he plans to address, perhaps, the most urgent issue of my generation: climate change.

A New York Times article called, “The Debates Were a Failure of Journalism,” the author David Leonhardt provides a chart of the number of times questions were asked about various topics. As you can see, climate change failed to come up.

The scientific evidence is there. The physical evidence is there. The people’s opinion is there. Yet, our country’s leaders do not realize that the Syrian conflict, immigration and more are all related to the consequences of climate change.

Evidence shows that global climate change exists and has widespread impacts on human and natural systems in both the short and long run. Scientific consensus argues, with high confidence, that climate change is almost unequivocal due to anthropogenic and natural drivers. According to the IPCC 5th Assessment Synthesis Report, average precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere has increased and growing CO2 uptake by the ocean has caused a pH decrease by 0.1 resulting in acidification. These events and many others are congruent with the upward trend of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and rising surface temperatures.

Additionally, though climate change is of global concern, the burden is unevenly distributed among countries. Even though rich economies such as the United States are mostly responsible the consequences of climate change, according to an article written by John Vidal in The Guardian, “the worst impacts will be felt by the poorest people...particularly on the most vulnerable and marginalized population groups”. In Africa, countries are already experiencing a decline in crop yield because of longer droughts. The IFPRI predicts a 5-22% drop in yield by 2050, pushing people deeper into destitution. Because rural African livelihoods are mostly dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the chronically poor will face increasing economic pressures. Stagnant yields due to changes in rainfall variability threaten food security and lead to falls in GDP, increasing the risk of malnutrition and poverty. IPCC’s Climate Change Report on Africa predicts with high confidence that major cereal crop productivity across Africa will decrease due to increasingly prominent high temperatures. Crops don’t have the ability to adapt at the same rate as changing climate conditions and because these communities cannot afford to import food, food security is threatened.

This highlights the injustice of climate change because populations who already face impoverishment and non-ideal conditions must deal with the brunt of current and future climate change. Populations in socioeconomic vulnerable positions will be forced to seek alternative forms of subsistence, which will amplify other stress factors such as overexploitation of resources, habitat degradation, and population displacement.

We are pushing the boundaries of Earth’s natural carrying capacity. Climate change will exacerbate and worsen existing factors that are already expected to have negative impacts on natural and human systems. No one is safe. So whoever steps into office on November 8th, hopefully climate change is placed of the highest importance.