Editorial: Elect leaders who know priority of climate change

  • Across the globe, people took to the streets Friday to demand that government leaders tackle climate change.

    Across the globe, people took to the streets Friday to demand that government leaders tackle climate change. Associated Press Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted9/21/2019 2:00 PM

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We got into a conversation the other day with a friend who, in reference to Friday's climate change protests around the globe, asked, "I wonder how many climate marchers there are in China today? Answer: zero."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The answer to that frustration recalls a mother's venerable wisdom in response to her child's argument to stay out late because, well, Johnny's mom lets him stay out late: "If Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff?" Whether China does or does not respond to the challenge of global warming, we each do what we can. We don't say there's no point if China doesn't address it. We do what we can. Every drop may not begin an ocean, but every ocean begins with a drop.

While it's hard to pinpoint any single hurricane, forest fire, drought or glacier melt and attribute it categorically to the weather extremes wrought by global warming, the signs are all around us that we already are beginning to feel the effects of climate change. More disturbing, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year issued a report warning of catastrophe as early as 2040 if governments around the world don't aggressively address the challenge.

It is irresponsible for any politician to ignore the data and play into the wishes of short-term vested interests and the wishful thinking of climate change doubters.

The stakes and the obligations, for us and for our posterity, are too high.

As anyone who watches the early dust-ups of the 2020 presidential politicking is well aware, we are beginning the campaigns for next year's elections. Soon candidates will begin appearing not just for president, but also for the Senate and U.S. House. There will be candidates on the ballot for the Illinois General Assembly and county offices and an assortment of other offices.

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We're generally not litmus-test voters. Elected office holders face myriad important issues and every candidate is a combination views; most will have at least a few positions worthy of question or criticism. Because of that, we tend to view candidates based less on one specific issue and more on the ways their minds work, the independence they display, and the summary and depths of the allegiances they hold.

Not in 2020.

Each of us, as voters, must demand a position on climate change from the candidates who solicit our support. And not just a position, but a plan. What do the candidates intend to do about it?

This applies to all candidates. A president will have more power and impact on climate change than, say, a county board member. But counties must respond to climate challenges as well as nations. In order to truly serve, every public servant must be giving constructive attention to this issue.

Views on climate change are not the sole prerequisite voters should require of the candidates in next year's elections. But they are the first. Without an appropriate response on it, a candidate's response on any other issue doesn't matter.

As individuals, we often ask ourselves what can we do to combat climate change. One of the most important things we can do is to make it a priority in the 2020 elections.

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