By Hazel Martello
In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic spike in natural disasters across the globe being caused by climate change. Within just the past twelve months, we’ve seen earthquakes and entire forests burnt down in California, hurricanes in Puerto Rico, and now raging fires in the Amazon rainforest. Towns have been destroyed, people have been left without clean water or access to electricity, and wildlife have lost much of their precious little remaining habitat. With climate change affecting us like never before, it’s inevitable that environmental policies are front and center in so many upcoming political races.
Here in Illinois, one of the most notable progressive candidates for global warming is Robert Emmons Jr. Emmons is facing off in Illinois’ First Congressional district against incumbent congressman Bobby Rush. One of the pillars of his campaign is climate justice. He plans to do great things for Illinois’ local environment by creating greener infrastructure, improving water quality, and addressing the often-ignored intersect between racial injustice and environmental injustice. However, his campaign understands the unique role urban areas within Illinois’ first district hold in the battle against global climate change.
Cities produce a majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The 1st District’s 700,000 residents are among the over 6 million people who rely on Lake Michigan for their water. Because of this, Robert will make passing The Green New Deal a top priority once in office. He wants to ensure that our district can reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning to clean energy. The Green New Deal also boasts a strong economic component, one which aims to create new jobs and economic stability, all while protecting those who will be most vulnerable during this period of transition. His strong environmental policies would be a welcomed shift in Chicago politics, particularly because his democratic opponent, Bobby Rush, has come out against The Green New Deal.
Even though his campaign is only a few months old, he’s already gained recognition for his progressive policies against climate change. The People for Bernie has recently made Robert Emmons their very first endorsement of the election cycle.
But with President Donald Trump adamant that climate change doesn’t exist or is not an imminent threat, it’s going to take more than Congressional challengers to tackle this issue. America will need a commander-in-chief who strongly defends The Green New Deal if we want to keep our country safe. Voters will need to get involved in politics at a local and national level by making sure to vote, volunteer, and support candidates who advocate for climate change. Here’s how 5 Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election favor, or don’t favor, sweeping reform in the realm of environmental policy:
Bernie Sanders (Sen. Vermont)
Bernie Sanders has a long history of fighting climate change. He introduced a bill for increased funding for cleaner and more efficient energy during his very first year as a senator. More recently, he has co-sponsored The Green New Deal and has proposed one of the most dramatic — and expensive — plans for climate change prevention of all the democratic candidates. Sanders continues to pledge not to accept corporate donations, including those from large energy corporations.
Elizabeth Warren (Sen. Massachusetts)
Elizabeth Warren is often teased for being “the woman with a plan.” So it comes as no surprise that her plan to fight climate change is the most detailed we’ve seen so far. Her plan has three major components, all geared at one thing: fighting climate change by mobilizing America’s economy. Warren wants to create new jobs and boost the economy by investing in clean energy nationwide. She aims to use her climate plan to help fulfill the promises of The Green New Deal.
Amy Klobuchar (Sen. Minnesota)
Amy Klobuchar is another co-sponsor of The Green New Deal. However, unlike Senator Sanders, she doesn’t appear to see it as a reality. She’s instead described The Green New Deal as “aspirational,” but that doesn’t mean she’s not serious about fighting climate change. Klobuchar plans for net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 by using executive powers to reverse harmful environmental policies from the Trump administration, increasing funding in clean power, and investing in cleaner infrastructure.
Andrew Yang (Entrepreneur)
Andrew Yang, as usual, brings a unique perspective to the issue. While most of the democratic candidates currently hold positions as Senators or within the House of Representatives, Yang is an entrepreneur first and foremost. His policies for combating climate change reflect his knowledge of business and the economy. Yang has officially stated he supports and is aligned with the aims of The Green New Deal. He plans to invest in any technology proposals that could offer to not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but actually restore the environment. His plan involves reaching the 2050 goal of net zero carbon emissions in stages. His plan emphasizes government funding for cutting-edge carbon capture technologies, as well as introducing new taxes on unclean energy sources.
Beto O’Rourke (Rep. Texas 16th District)
Beto O’Rourke has come under fire for his support of natural gases and taking donations from fossil fuel companies during his Senate race against Ted Cruz. However, O’Rourke has since pledged to return any donations of more than $200 that came from fossil fuel donors. His climate plan involves a $5 trillion investment in producing clean energy and infrastructure. While O’Rourke’s plan is to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, his plan also accounts for the irreversible damage being done to communities right now. He promises to protect vulnerable communities from impending climate catastrophes by investing in response programs. O’Rourke also supports the Green New Deal, stating “some will criticize The Green New Deal for being too bold. […] But, I’ll tell you what. I haven’t seen anything better that addresses this singular crisis that we face.”
While these candidates have been vocal from the jump, we’re likely to see more support from other presidential candidates as the cycle progresses, so it’s important for voters to remain alert and engaged with their politicians locally and nationally. Climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately by all levels of government. O’Rourke might have said it best; The Green New Deal really does seem to offer us our best chance at a better, safer future. One where our own environment is no longer a threat to both our short- and long-term livelihood.