Turning out to vote in an election is an important part of our civic duty (and, evidently, is an area for improvement among University students). Just as important, however, is educating yourself on what is at stake in the upcoming election. This fall, we are voting for more than just the next president; we’re voting for the future of our planet. Under a second Trump term, nobody wins except the oil operators, and even they won’t be spared from the growing effects of climate change.
Despite the claims of our president and his supporters, advocating for immediate action on climate change is not just leftist alarmism. Climate change is happening whether you like it or not. We have seen the devastation of wildfires on the West Coast and around the world. We have seen the destruction of increasingly frequent hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. We have seen the severe rainfall in the Midwest that threaten our crops. Millions of lives are at stake in the upcoming election. It is up to us this fall to determine whether we do anything about the crisis at hand.
Unfortunately, over the past seven months with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that neither scientific evidence nor devastating loss of human life are enough to lead the current administration to take action on existential threats. The focus is always on the economy and progress for progress’s sake, even at the expense of human lives. But for a party that supposedly values the economy and employment rates so much, Republicans sure have dropped the ball on the transition to clean energy.
An economic system built upon the fossil fuel industry is not only unsustainable, but unprofitable. According to Carbon Tracker, oil and gas producers that seek to operate at ‘business as usual’ could miss out on a collective 100 trillion dollars in profit, nearly two-thirds of usual profit from the industry. It’s not that progressives don’t care about the economy; they simply want to ensure the economy endures for future generations, and that needless loss of life is minimized.
In fact, while addressing the climate crisis will cost money, the potential of a renewable-based economy for employment rates and economic growth is astounding. The longer we wait to act on climate change, on the other hand, the greater the cost to mitigate its effects and slow warming will be. As of 2019, clean energy production technologies, like solar, provided more than twice as many jobs as the fossil fuel industry. There are more workers nationally in green energy than in grocery and liquor stores combined. Even in the short term, sustainable infrastructure creates more jobs than projects with higher emissions. For instance, funding for public transit from the 2009 economic stimulus spending created 70 percent more job-hours per dollar than funding for highways, and funding for reforestation could support three times more jobs than for logging.
Clearly, tackling the climate crisis now provides opportunity for the creation of millions of jobs for a nation largely out of work. The economy under the coronavirus pandemic has been said to be the worst economic crisis since the 1930 stock market crash. With such a clear opportunity to return citizens to work while transitioning to a sustainable energy system, it simply does not make sense to continue depending on such an unsustainable industry.
Don’t get me started on the millions, likely billions, of people from coastal cities and islands around the world who will be climate refugees by 2050, if we do not take immediate action to prevent their homes from going underwater. If you’re anti-immigration, one way to put out that fire before it happens is to target the root of the problem by transitioning to clean energy immediately. We’re predicting the waves of climate migrants as many as three decades in advance; there is no excuse to act as though no one saw this coming. When the climate refugees come, it will be because our leaders chose not to act for too long.
If we act now on climate change, we could prevent upwards of 2.4 million premature deaths annually. Seeing as the world was virtually shut down for months on end over a pandemic that has killed a million people worldwide, preventing millions of climate-related deaths by transitioning to a more sustainable and profitable industry should be a no-brainer.
Our president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly denied and failed to act on climate change. His administration has removed protections of our nation’s largest carbon sink and oldest national forest, despite the failure of the timber industry to turn an economic profit over the past few decades. The President has repealed various environmental regulations, including the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, which are in place to promote not only environmental health, but also human health. During a time when millions of Americans have been afflicted with a respiratory disease, it is completely irresponsible to actively dismantle regulations which promote air quality. Why give fossil fuel companies even more leeway in denigrating human health, especially during a pandemic? Haven’t they done enough harm?
This isn’t a matter of party politics anymore. This is an election pitting science against denial and facts against fake news, but not necessarily liberal against conservative. Frankly, Donald Trump’s track record aligns with neither set of values. Each day, more and more lifelong conservatives come forward to criticize the president for continually undermining the traditional values of the Republican Party. Denial of science and ignoring threats to our existence were not always the defining features of the Republican Party, nor do they need to be. Electing Joe Biden is not a betrayal of conservative values: it’s an investment in a more sustainable, profitable economy for us all.
My message also goes out to progressives who don’t believe that Biden is progressive enough on climate change. I have worked with hundreds of young climate activists from around the country, and it is frankly shocking to see how many young progressives are so staunchly opposed to voting. I have been lectured about how Biden isn’t “progressive” enough. I have been asked how I could possibly support him, as a climate advocate myself. The answer is simple: if Trump is re-elected, the damage done to the planet will likely be irreparable. If Biden is elected, he at least has a plan to mitigate climate change, rather than exacerbate it.
If you care about the environment, if you want to even give us a fighting chance at mitigating climate change, I implore you to vote for Joe Biden this November. Failure to vote is a vote for Trump. Write-ins or third-party votes are votes for Trump, too. Even if you aren’t a fan of Biden himself, a vote for Biden is a vote for the climate, for science, for the economy, and for the future of our planet.
Liberals and conservatives alike, my generation is counting on you to keep our futures in mind when you go to the polls. Please don’t turn your back on science just to prove your loyalty to a party or candidate this fall. If we are to make any progress on climate change, we need bipartisan efforts, not division and misinformation. Our planet is counting on you.
Hannah Reynolds is a junior in the anthropology department. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.