This election is killing the planet: The complete & utter insanity of a campaign that ignores climate change

Politicians are more than happy to ignore than elephant in the room. But why is the media playing along?

Published October 5, 2015 9:58AM (EDT)

  (AP/Reuters/John Paul Filo/Richard Drew/Nikki Kahn/Photo montage by Salon)
(AP/Reuters/John Paul Filo/Richard Drew/Nikki Kahn/Photo montage by Salon)

Climate change is possibly the greatest act of murder-suicide in the history of the mankind. It is changing the planet in irreversible ways. It is by far the biggest threat that humanity faces in the coming decades. Take a look at the current presidential race, though, and you might think that climate change was some petty fringe concern.

Which is crazy—so, so unbelievably crazy.

It is the great missing issue from the 2016 campaign, just as it was the great missing issue from the 2012 campaign, and the one before that, and the one before that. Presidential campaigns are not typically noted for their intelligence—they might actually be one of the dumber practices we engage in as a species—but it's still slightly startling that such an urgent matter can't get arrested in this one.

Let's review: Hillary Clinton has given one major speech on the topic. Her plan was derided by experts as woefully insufficient. She's been mostly silent since then. Bernie Sanders has emphasized climate change in his stump speech, but has released no real policy platform on it. Environmental journalists have noted his puzzlingly muted approach with some dismay.

The Republicans, naturally, bring nothing to this discussion, since it's a crime in their party to even acknowledge the existence of climate change. This is where the other main actor in the presidential race—the media—comes in. Surely some perceptive journalists would notice that Republicans were dodging a big issue and would call them on it? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)

I looked through the transcripts of the five biggest Sunday shows over the last month. Just about every single major presidential candidate, in both parties, was a guest on at least one of the shows during that time. Not one of them was asked about climate change. The only politician who had a question on the subject put to her was Sarah Palin—hardly a relevant political figure. Essentially the only people to mention climate change were Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, and even then it was in passing.

Climate change came up just once in the endless Republican debates, at the tail end of the psychological torture session that was the CNN gathering. The candidates talked about it for three minutes.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me emphasize the insanity of this. The planet is quickly dying, and the solutions being proposed by the world's politicians would, in the cheerful words of the New York Times, "still allow the world to heat up...[to] a level that scientists say is likely to produce catastrophes." So it would behoove all of us to deal with this in a more comprehensive way than we have thus far.

There are two things happening here. First, climate change is scary, not only because it might kill us all someday, but also because to really fight it we have to completely overhaul our current economic order. (You know, that pesky "global capitalism" thing that's currently driving the Earth into the ground.) Hillary Clinton—loyal friend to big business, cautious to her bones—is not going to be able to capably handle that situation. The American political system as it is currently constituted is not going to be able to capably handle that situation. Better to put climate change on the back burner, even though—did I mention this before?—it might kill us all someday.

Second, the media is behaving in its usual, hyper-timid, blinkered way. It looks at climate change—a big, complicated thing with terrifying implications for our way of life and for the profit-driven world that makes millionaires of our biggest journalists—and runs the other way.

Nobody expects Chuck Todd to sound like Naomi Klein when he talks about the environment, but is it too much to expect him and others like him to even broach the subject? Despite the myopia of our elite media, "what are you going to do about climate change" is not some nasty partisan question. It should be a basic, fundamental way that we judge our presidential candidates. "Do you believe in climate change" is not enough at this point. There's no time for that sort of foolishness anymore.

That goes for all of us. We have to put climate change front and center. The clock is ticking. Let's get it together, people.

By Jack Mirkinson

Jack Mirkinson is a writer living in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @jackmirkinson.

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