Credit to Washington Governor Jay Inslee for pushing this no-brainer idea into the mainstream after grassroots groups like 350 Action and the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Team launched petitions calling for something that should be a universally accepted fact: the Democrats should have a debate 100% centered around the biggest existential threat to mankind’s existence (just before this published, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also endorsed this idea). The fact that this is something we have to push for, and not a self-evident truth, tells you all you need to know about the inadequacy of our current political, media and economic establishment that has driven us to the brink of climate catastrophe. Per Inslee in an e-mail to his supporters:
“This can’t be a one-off question where candidates get to give a soundbite and move on: Climate change is at the heart of every issue that matters to voters, and voters deserve to hear what 2020 presidential candidates plan to do about it. Each 2020 nominee needs to have a concrete plan to address climate change — and we deserve to hear those plans.”
The governor also released a petition that he will be sending to the DNC. This is how politics is supposed to work: grassroots groups work to right injustices, and politicians use their platform to amplify their cause. We are way behind in this war against our carbon hubris, and if we were taking this fight as seriously as we should, we would have far more than one debate centered around an apocalyptic event guaranteed to lock itself in by 2030 unless we make unprecedented changes to our economy.
The IPCC estimated that two degrees of global warming would cost the world somewhere around $69 trillion. To put that unfathomable figure in perspective, the 2017 global GDP was $75 trillion. If you are the type to think about everything in terms of economics, think of this as a coming collapse bigger than the Great Depression where at least 10% of all global wealth will evaporate. There is no logic against taking climate change as the most serious threat to our existence, other than the logic of capitalism and its unhinged demand for perpetual GDP growth at any cost.
“Saving the world” is not some hyperbolic hippie sermon—it’s just literally saving the world. Simply endorsing the (still developing) Green New Deal is not enough for politicians this cycle. That’s the bare minimum. We need to hear detailed strategy from the candidates, because major capital and their allies throughout both the Republican and Democratic parties are going to fight this every step of the way. This is not something where a Democratic president can just snap their fingers and make it happen. This is a war against immensely powerful entrenched interests, and we need candidates to give us their vision for how it will be fought. Today, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and The Intercept released a helpful template for how to tell what should wind up being the seminal story of millennials and Gen Z’s lives.
To learn more on how the Green New Deal would work, read this detailed piece in The Intercept by Kate Aronoff that inspired that video.
America is facing massive systemic crises on multiple fronts, and it is overwhelming trying to prioritize what is most important. But at the end of the day, if we have a planet that is hostile to human life, nothing else really matters. We are doomed if we do not change. To a degree, we are already doomed. Millennials and Gen Z are going to die on a planet with a fundamentally different constitution than the one that our parents were born on to, and that is the ultimate legacy of the generations who oversaw our 20th century profitable descent into climate hell.
The Democratic Party is our only hope to win against this scourge, and it must start taking climate change as seriously as climate change is taking on the planet. One debate around climate change shouldn’t be too much to ask. If the DNC does not grant this request driven by the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Team and Gov. Jay Inslee (they told The Daily Beast it was under consideration), then they should have to very publicly explain why out of twelve scheduled debates, one was not worthy of dedicating to the survival of human society as we know it.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.