My Turn: A swing and a miss for DNC on climate change

For the Monitor
Published: 9/3/2019 8:00:11 AM

Last month in San Francisco, by a vote of 18 to 7, the Democratic National Committee voted not to sanction a debate focused on climate change, although New Hampshire state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, who attended the meeting, did offer an amendment allowing candidates to participate in any and all debates without penalties.

In denying a climate debate, this committee illustrated that it may not be ready to stand with a younger generation, nor perhaps are members bold enough to link climate change to so many issues confronted by everyday Americans today and in the future: the cost of health care, healthy foods, a livable wage, poor air quality, polluted water.

I am disappointed but not disheartened by the committee’s lack of resolve. Because, since the beginning of 2019, every Democratic candidate for president (as well as GOP candidate Bill Weld) began their campaigns in New Hampshire with commitments to returning the United States to the Paris agreement, and with an acknowledgement of or commitment to the Green New Deal.

My optimism lies in the fact that, as we head into the fall, most candidates for president will have developed and rolled out detailed climate plans. My hope grows as a wellspring of clean energy solutions already offered by the different candidates seem as diverse as the field of contestants itself: growing a middle class by leading electric vehicle manufacturing; putting a price on carbon to reflect its true costs to people and our planet; substantial investments in energy storage; modernizing our outdated and aging electric grid; working with farmers to store carbon in their soil and reap the benefits; eliminating methane leakage from existing sources in the oil and natural gas industry, and much more.

There are costs tied to climate action, but the costs of inaction are far greater. Climate change is real, and the impacts are being felt now – here in New Hampshire and across the country.

Coastal real estate is beginning to see a dampening effect on pricing because of chronic flooding. Last month (the hottest month globally on record) the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report detailing a dangerously hotter future for much of the United States (see for yourself what the future holds for extreme heat in Strafford, Merrimack, Rockingham or any county in the United States).

What we accomplish in the next administration will determine the future level of risk to human health and labor productivity in the agricultural, construction and other outdoor sectors.

Don’t be taken aback by the money candidates propose to invest in climate action; it is a great deal of money yet the scale of targeted investment is not unprecedented: the Apollo program represented 4% of the entire federal budget under President John F. Kennedy. Thus we can be confident the United States of America can resolve to meet the existential challenge of this generation.

It may be difficult to distinguish one presidential candidate from another with respect to their positions on climate change, but what they offer in their plans will help discern just how serious they are, and the kind of leader he or she will be. Here are some questions we might ask the candidates in the coming months:

■Will climate action be a top priority once you take office? What is your plan to keep all Americans safe from a changing climate?

■What’s your science-based plan to cut transportation pollution? What will you do to put us on a path to make vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas, electrify cars and trucks, and make our fuels cleaner?

■How will you support the accelerated deployment of renewable energy and ensure we modernize our outdated electricity grid to better accommodate the transition to clean energy?

■Will you work to preserve the rights of communities, states and other industries harmed by climate change to file lawsuits to make fossil fuel companies pay their share of the damages?

The Democratic National Committee may have closed the curtain on a sanctioned climate debate, but 10 candidates will be on stage Sept. 4 in a climate forum hosted by CNN (as of this writing not all have developed climate plans). Perhaps we will hear them answer one or more of these questions; if not, make sure they do so when you meet a candidate here in New Hampshire over the next 5½ months.

(David Hills owns and operates Emery Farm in Durham.)

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