The first presidential primary debates of this election cycle began on August 6, 2015. We started with 16 republican and three democratic candidates. In the last seven months, the field has narrowed to four republicans and two democrats with solidified positions, but one critical issue continues to be ignored in the debates so far. It’s time we hear their plans regarding climate change.

On the cusp of the final debates in Florida, a state struggling with the threat of rising sea levels, both democratic and republican local mayors are demanding more attention to this issue on the debate stage. I couldn’t agree with them more. Innovation and policies supporting climate resilience and clean energy will create and maintain prosperity in our communities and national economy.

Florida is at great risk in the face of climate change inaction. (Source)

The local politicians are calling for accountability and answers because, as Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach put it, “The rising seas aren’t Democratic or Republican.”

In September there was a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California where a relentless drought is of growing concern. This January in Charleston, South Carolina, higher ocean temperatures and rising sea levels triggered more intense hurricanes, but neither party took a strong stand on the issue. Candidates speak of energy independence but provide no policy and never elaborate on what climate change means to them.

So as we enter the final debates on both sides of the aisle, here are four questions I need Univision and CNN to ask the candidates:

  1. We know that the economy is a top issue with voters in every election. What is your plan relative to our economy and energy independence?
  1. In November 2013, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13653 Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. An excerpt from the order reads “With preparedness and resilience come a safer economy, infrastructure, environment, and supply of natural resources.” Are you prepared as President to collaborate with local and federal governments and industry to ensure that the United States of America is prepared for the effects of climate change, including high temperatures, volatile weather, and sea level rise?
  1. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change member states met the EU just three months ago at COP21 in Paris to commit to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. How will you be a leader amongst the other 195 nations and make ambitious strides in greenhouse gas reduction?
  1. As Commander in Chief of the military you will be responsible for the deployment of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Our armed forces have stepped up to face climate change and innovated to find solutions that conserve resources and keep our men and women safer in battle. What role does climate change and resiliency play in your view of national security?

Hopefully the debate moderators will hear the demands for climate change questions, and we will finally get some clarity around the candidates’ positions on this world-changing issue. If the opportunity passes by, it is still up to us to seek out these answers. In the absence of answers, silence can speak volumes.



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