Climate change is doubtless one of the most critical issues in the 2020 US presidential election. According to The Atlantic, a February 2020 poll of nearly 2,000 registered voters showed that climate is the clear #2 issue for Democrats in caucus states, behind health care. Among all voters, global warming is now one of the most pressing issues in politics.
Climate change and four other key issues (health care, economy/jobs, immigration policy, and Social Security) have the ability to command the electorate’s attention. For liberal Democrats, climate change is the most important issue nationally. For the first time in US political history, climate change is a top-tier issue.
Although polling shows increased concern about climate change, it unsurprisingly reveals that views are divided by party. While more than 70% of Democrats say that global warming is caused by human activities, only 51% of moderate Republicans and 25% of conservative Republicans agree. Large majorities of voters want future energy infrastructure to come from renewable sources like wind and solar. Over 70% of voters said that they would support requiring all electricity in their state to come from wind and solar plants by 2050.
Why are voters taking climate change more seriously now? Experts suspect they’re starting to connect global warming with the disasters affecting their own lives. That shift was clear during Democratic caucuses in Iowa this past February, where devastating floods in 2019 prevented farmers from planting 14 million acres in crops. Some 77% of Iowa voters said extreme weather poses a serious problem where they live. Similar stories are becoming more commonplace throughout the country. With unprecedented hurricane and fire seasons in the US in recent years, weather-related disasters are clearly driving more people to care about climate change.
Just yesterday, Democrats in the House of Representatives released a major climate change plan aimed at curbing US greenhouse gases and protecting vulnerable communities. At 547 pages, the plan is the most ambitious to date. It proposes fines for carbon dioxide pollution, eliminating pollution from cars and power plants in the next 15 to 20 years, and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The report also states that marginalized communities who often suffer the worst effects of climate change and pollution must receive the "tangible benefits" of climate action.
On the Republican side, President Trump's position as a staunch climate change denier has led the current administration to basically ignore the issue through a broad rejection of climate policy and embrace of fossil fuels. He did brag about his efforts to boost US oil and natural gas production during his State of the Union in February. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, Trump also mentioned a plan to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by planting a trillion trees, garnering criticism from scientists.
According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “We will turn this report into law, saving the planet. Democrats know that the climate crisis is the essential crisis of our time.” Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden released a statement promising that "as president, he will work with Congress to implement a bold agenda that addresses the climate emergency, achieves environmental justice, and creates good-paying jobs that provide a chance to join a union."
The new document offers policy recommendations in most economic sectors and concludes that “building a resilient, clean economy affords us another opportunity: to acknowledge and commit to correcting past policy failures that created the climate crisis and the systemic economic and racial inequalities that plague our communities today.”