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Will Environmentalism Take a Front-Row Seat in 2020?

Selena Darlim

Posted on November 5, 2018 11:48

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Approaching deadlines to slow climate change might nudge environmental protection to the top of the political agenda.

By the time the next presidential debate takes place, we will have 10 more years to prevent global temperatures from raising 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Drastic change is only way to reduce the almost-certain likelihood of surpassing this threshold. Incremental improvements won't do — we need political reform on both a national and a global scale, and societal reform on both an individual and a cross-cultural level.

Of course, that change also needs to happen at the polls.

According to respective surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center, only 1 to 4 percent of U.S. voters consider environmental protection to be a priority issue.

And why would it be? Environmental issues are rarely covered in the media aside from occasional reports on policy changes, scientific studies and natural disasters. Compared to crime, politics and entertainment, the extent of coverage seems almost insignificant.

Even when an environmental issue gets adequate media coverage, concerns fail to resonate in some communities who have yet to experience noticeable environmental disturbance. Soon, that may no longer be the case.

While no particular climate event can be traced to climate change, the severity of environmental disasters seems to have increased. Those disasters are bound to have an effect on elections.

In California, for example, nine of the state's 10 largest wildfires have occurred in the past 15 years, three of which have burned since December 2017. Unsurprisingly, Californians may need to file claims for wildfire-related losses, and the state's insurance commissioner race has largely centered on wildfires as a result.

On the other side of the country, hurricanes in Florida and North Carolina have not only prevented some voters from following political races, but in some cases have even destroyed nearby polling places.

Given the anticipated trends of climate change, voters may very well find themselves recovering from a recent weather event, battling drought, and/or dealing with polluted air or waterways. Individuals facing such situations may soon change the perception of the "environmental voter".

As of now, "environmentalist" still conjures an image of a white, educated young person for many people. In reality, minority and low-income communities are among most likely to prioritize environmental issues since they are the most affected by them.

Yet the bias persists. A recent study found that even minority and low-income Americans underestimate the prevalence of environmental concern within their own communities.

Perhaps, by 2020, environmental pressure will have grown strong enough to push the issue to the forefront. At the very least, more than 1 to 4 percent of voters will have been affected my environmental issues -- hopefully a higher percentage will consider it a priority.

Selena Darlim

Posted on November 5, 2018 11:48

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Source: FOX 8 News
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