Climate change: the missing issue of the 2016 campaign
Guardian US survey reveals anger of voters as election year debate fails to deal with concerns over the gathering global disaster.
The race for the White House is failing to grapple with the key issues of the day, especially the urgent need to combat climate change before atmospheric changes become irreversible, a slice of the American electorate believes.
As the primary election season turns toward a head-to-head between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there is increasing anger and frustration over the nature of the contest. A Guardian call-out to online readers in the US asking them to reflect on the race so far was met by a barrage of criticism on the tone and substance of the world’s most important election – with the two main parties, individual candidates and the media all coming under heavy fire.
The Guardian asked readers to identify the “one issue that affects your life you wish the presidential candidates were discussing more”. Resoundingly, the largest group of participants pointed to climate change.
Of the 1,385 who responded to the call-out – from all 50 states – one in five expressed discontent at the relative silence from candidates around a subject that they believed to be of supreme and epochal importance. They noted that much of the Republican debate has either focused on blatant denial that climate change even exists or on how to unpick Barack Obama’s attempts to fight global warming, while on the Democratic side both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have raised the issue but have rarely pushed it to the top of the political agenda.
Many of the respondents vented despair at a political system that in their view allowed a matter of such overwhelming significance to be so overlooked. “The fact that no one is really talking about climate change, to me, is indicative of just how lost we are,” said Linda Hayden, 51, from Oregon. “Our house is on fire and we are arguing about who is more angry!”
Vivid words and phrases were used to articulate the scale of the pending disaster that readers accused the presidential hopefuls of ignoring, such as “cataclysmic”, “running out of time”, “threat to human life”, “path towards destruction”, or in one particularly memorable remark: “slow-motion apocalypse”.
A reader from Alaska, a state acutely feeling the impact of climate change, used the word “Doomed!”, while an 18-year-old woman from Tennessee who asked to remain anonymous simply said: “Freaking global climate change.” Jennie Ratcliffe, 66, from North Carolina quibbled with the Guardian’s wording of the question, saying “this is far more than an ‘issue’ – it’s a crisis”.
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