There may be no higher test of leadership than the kind of world we leave our children. We have an obligation to protect them from the mounting costs and widening dangers of climate change.
That’s not something that should divide us, red state and blue. It should unite us, as American people.
As the Democratic presidential hopefuls gather in Miami this week for their first nationally televised debate, here are six questions every serious candidate for high office should be asked – and should be able to answer.
— We just wrapped up the five hottest years since global record-keeping began in 1880. Heartland croplands are washing away. Wildfires burned enough land last year alone to cover the southern fifth of Florida. We’re losing entire species faster than at any other time since the dinosaurs died off some 60 million years ago. And seven in ten Americans say they want the government to do more to fight climate change.
Why, in the face of all this, haven’t we yet mobilized, as a nation, to fight this grave and gathering threat, and what’s the first thing you would do, as president, to rally the country around the need to act?
— Largely by burning coal, oil and gas, we’ve raised the carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere by 45 percent. By 2050, we can get to 100 percent clean energy, by getting most of our power from clean sources and strengthening the capacity of our forests, farms and wetlands to lock carbon away in healthy soils.
What are the three most important things we can do, as a country, to cut our carbon footprint, and what, specifically, would you direct your administration to do to advance this vital work?
— Nearly 3.3 million Americans are working to help us become more efficient, build all-electric and hybrid cars and get more clean, homegrown power from the wind and sun. Economists project $8 trillion in global clean energy investment in the coming decades.
What will you do, as president, to help speed the shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future, create even more clean energy jobs and ensure that American workers are winners in the race for this global market?
— Even as climate change imposes rising costs on us all, some are bearing an even greater burden.
How can we ensure that our climate policies address the needs of people of color, low income communities and others on the front lines of climate hazard and harm, and how can we ensure a just and equitable transition to clean energy sources without leaving the people in fossil fuel producing regions behind?
— Unless we start now to cut carbon pollution, seas could rise by up to 6.5 feet by century’s end. That would put much of southern Florida underwater and more than $1 trillion of U.S. commercial and residential property at risk.
What’s your plan for helping coastal communities adapt to rising seas, extreme heat, increased vector-borne disease outbreaks, ever more devastating storms and floods and other climate-related damage that threatens to bankrupt localities, cities and entire states?
— President Trump’s call to expose Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and eastern Gulf of Mexico waters to the dangers of offshore drilling would lock future generations into decades more reliance on the fossil fuels that are driving climate chaos. And the administration has weakened the safeguards put in place after the disastrous 2010 BP blowout.
As president, would you protect these oceans, our coastal communities and all they support, by making clear these waters are off the table for fossil fuel development?
Rhea Suh is president of the NRDC Action Fund
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.