July 30, 2016

The New Yorker: Where was climate change at the party conventions?

If you watched the political conventions during the past two weeks, you heard a lot about isis and national security and police and race and jobs. You didn’t hear much, though, about climate change, despite the fact that it’s arguably the most consequential long-term problem the U.S. faces, and one that requires government action. Yet it’s simply not an issue that most American politicians want to talk much about. The Republicans, of course, are actively hostile to discussions of the problem, dismissing it as relatively trivial when they’re not denying its existence. At the G.O.P. Convention, the phrase “climate change” was mentioned only a few times, and the subject was raised only to reject the idea that it’s a problem at all. The Party’s platform, meanwhile, explicitly rejects the recently signed Paris Agreement.

The Democrats are, at least in theory, committed to slowing the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions, and, eventually, to shrinking them. But watching the Democratic Convention, climate change didn’t seem to be a high priority. There was no prime-time segment devoted to the subject—certainly nothing like the ones devoted to national security, police-citizen relations, and other issues. James Cameron did present a short film on climate change, on Wednesday evening, but it didn’t air in prime time. As for the marquee speakers, they made only glancing reference to the threat of climate change, when they mentioned it at all. Barack Obama made one reference to the Paris Agreement, and had one line about climate change. Hillary Clinton said, “I believe in science” (a sadly necessary counter to the G.O.P.’s denials of climate science), and, “We can save the planet.” But she had far more to say about other issues, and said nothing about specific measures we might take to deal with the problem.

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