Commentary: Include climate change in the debates

This article was published in the Miami Herald on March 5, 2016. 

Include climate change in the debates

By Helen Mountford

Helen Mountford is Programme Director for the New Climate Economy project. 

None of the 16 presidential debates so far have taken on climate change as a major focus. As candidates from both sides head to Florida for some of the last primary debates, it’s time to put climate action in its proper place: at the heart of a strong and prosperous American economy.

Florida is the right place to do so. With more than 1,350 miles of coastline, the state is already feeling the cost of rising sea levels.

Miami Beach is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the next five years to install pumps and raise roads and seawalls. One important study found that in the next 15 years, almost $70 billion in coastal property in Florida will be at risk of flooding because of climate change.

Any serious presidential candidate needs a clear plan to tackle climate change, because the reality of this threat is no longer up for debate.

A majority of both Republican and Democratic voters and 97 percent of scientists understand that global warming is real. What should be discussed instead is how to accelerate the shift to clean, affordable energy.

Solar energy has been a powerful driver of job growth across America.

Last year, the U.S. solar industry created jobs 12 times faster than the overall economy, more than the oil and gas industries combined. And this trend is expected to continue.

America’s biggest businesses are already rallying around renewables. Walmart, Microsoft, Google, and 60 other companies have committed to switch to 100 percent renewable power.

By reducing emissions through renewables or energy efficiency, companies can save money on fuel and resources, and also boost productivity and innovation.

Americans and American companies are taking climate change seriously.

Now it’s time for our presidential candidates and debate moderators to do the same.

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