Editorial: Climate change is still crying for political attention

  • A demonstrator raises a sign urging action to combat climate change.

    A demonstrator raises a sign urging action to combat climate change. Associated Press File Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted8/28/2020 1:00 AM

As the winds still howl from a once-Category 4 hurricane that slammed into the coast of Louisiana and lightning-fueled fires of historic proportions rage across southern California and we in the Midwest suffer through a weeklong late-summer heat wave and the end of the Republican National Convention officially sets the stage for the 2020 election campaign, we can't resist returning to a theme we raised 11 months ago at the end of an acutely focused series of stories and editorials.

We must elect leaders, at all levels of government, who understand the priority of climate change.


We note with some consternation that neither political party's control of the national political spotlight gave much more than a passing glance at an issue whose threat to the future of our planet literally can be seen playing out before our very eyes. In our September 2019 editorial, we stated that while elected office holders generally are best evaluated "on the ways their minds work, the independence they display and the summary and depths of the allegiances they hold," voters in this election "must demand a position on climate change ... and not just a position but a plan."

We reissue that call today.

In the midst of a devastating pandemic with our nation roiled by social controversy, it could be easy for climate to fall off the political radar. We can't let it.

The major conventions are behind us and politicians at all levels are getting set to solicit our votes. Without question, a president can have more influence over our broad response to climate change than county officials or even state lawmakers, but counties and the state -- and for that matter, villages, cities and townships -- play important roles in managing the issues that affect climate change. Whatever the position, no public servant can truly serve who doesn't factor climate change into both specific statutory decisions and the broad outlook of government.

To be sure, candidates' positions on social issues demand our attention, and those who would curry our votes must demonstrate the ability to handle the simmering crises facing health care and the economy. But we also must not let them forget the long-term devastation that awaits if we let our attention to climate change fall by the wayside.

Views on climate change, as we've said before, are not the sole prerequisite voters should demand of candidates in the upcoming elections, but they are the first. Unfortunately, they did not find that place in either the Democratic or Republican national conventions.

Perhaps as the campaigns progress, the combination of a catastrophic hurricane and raging wildfires will help get the environment back into the spotlight of our political conversations.

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