Will Either National Party Ever Take Climate Change Seriously?

I live in Santa Barbara, California. In the last two months, my community has been ravaged by two sequential disasters: a record-setting wildfire, followed by devastating mudslides. Like the increasingly powerful snowstorms and hurricanes on the east coast, these weather events are almost certainly exacerbated by climate change. Climate change remains an existential threat to human civilization, one that humanity is not addressing with anything remotely close to the speed it must in order to avoid the most disastrous consequences.

America will almost certainly survive Donald Trump. Individuals will be (and have been) hurt, but as a whole the country will get through this and reverse whatever stupid and shortsighted changes are made to our tax, health. and regulatory laws. But the greatest long-term catastrophe of Trump’s election is that we will spend four years not only doing nothing about climate change mitigation at the federal level, but actually reversing course on even the paltry steps forward we have been taking. As one of the world’s most egregious carbon burners, the United States must take the clean in emissions reductions if human civilization as we know it and most of the world’s species are to survive.

Donald Trump’s State of the Union did not address climate change at all. Instead, he promoted the myth of clean coal. Trump has bought into the Alex Jones conspiracy theories about climate change, and Republicans conveniently want to enrich their gas and oil baron friends and donors. But we know this. On climate change as on so much else, Republicans are reckless, short-sighted and disastrously immoral.

But we should expect far better of the Democratic Party. Sadly, the official Democratic response from Joe Kennedy III also failed to mentioned the greatest threat facing not only our species but every other species on this planet.

It’s not for lack of interest. Concern over climate change is increasing steadily year over year in public polling as its ravaging effects become increasingly obvious. Millennials consider it the number one concern facing humanity. People of color are deeply committed to action on climate issues. The state of California is taking it very seriously. But for some reason it’s so far off the radar of national center-left priorities that it doesn’t even merit a few words in a State of the Union response dedicated directly to countering Trump Administration propaganda centered in large part on embracing dirty fossil fuels.

This is not a theoretical argument, or the whining of a privileged activist. People are dying because we have failed to act, and more will die because we fail to take it seriously enough, just as they have in my home town. If we are so unserious about it that we can’t bother to include it in our yearly response to Trump, millions more will die.

Democrats can do better. They must do better. The world is counting on it.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.