If you watched the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night, you might have come away with any number of impressions on climate change; that it’s a matter of opinion rather than a scientific fact (it isn’t), that fracking isn’t harmful to the environment (it is), or that our impending climate disaster isn’t actually a global, life-threatening issue (it very much is).
Hearing Vice President Mike Pence spout anti-science rhetoric was nothing new, of course; the Trump administration has devoted itself to downplaying the threat of climate change for years. More disappointing was hearing moderator Susan Page present the notion of climate change to Pence for review as though its effects weren’t already changing the world we live in; and even more difficult to swallow for many was hearing Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris repeatedly state that the Biden campaign won’t ban fracking.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave voice to some of those frustrations during the debate, tweeting in her inimitable fashion about the actual effects of fracking on the environment:
The unofficial motto of the Biden/Harris campaign might as well be Michelle Obama’s famous quote, “When they go low, we go high”—Biden and Harris both tweeted messages of support to President Donald Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19, and in normal times, their diplomacy would be commendable.
These, however, are—to put it mildly—not normal times; we’re living through a pandemic and an economic recession, all while our government refuses to meaningfully address the looming threat of climate change (which, scientists have estimated, could be irreversible by 2036). If there’s any time for Biden and Harris to move left on environmental issues without worrying about alienating moderates, it’s now, especially given that two-thirds of Americans think the government should do more on climate change.
On the debate stage last night, support for the Green New Deal became a handily wielded insult instead of a wholly appropriate response to a global threat, begging the question of whether our bar for the “adults in the room” has gotten too low. Without putting too fine a point on it, every issue that was discussed at the debate last night—from abortion to police reform to the Supreme Court—will fail to be relevant when our earth ceases to be inhabitable. Isn’t it past time for Democrats to stop playing it safe and prioritize the issue of climate change without worrying about the political ramifications?