Recent polls indicate that climate change will be a central issue for voters in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. According to the George Mason University poll, 38 percent of participants indicated that the topic is “very important” for their decision, while the lead researcher, Anthony Leiserowitz said, “This is truly a top-tier issue for the Democratic base.”
The poll, released in early May, only sampled 1,000 people, but the results are consistent with similar polls by Manmouth University and CNN, which showed that climate change ranks as the second most important topic, right below healthcare. According to CNN, 82 percent of Democrats say it is “very important” that candidates take aggressive action to combat the climate crisis.
The increased interest is likely due to a surge in both public awareness as well as extreme weather events ranging from wildfires to hurricanes.
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“With the salience of wildfires in the West, sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the way that weather affects farmers, people are beginning to see the effects of climate change,” said Sean Hecht of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
In 2018, an alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report upped the urgency of climate change and massive protests broke out across the globe.
In 2016, no candidate had a specific climate platform, but reports indicate that this year, candidates will need to detail specific action plans if they hope to be taken seriously. With protests already planned for the first Democratic debate, it is almost certain that journalists will ask candidates tough questions about their positions on the environment and the fossil fuel industry.
According to Bill McKibbens from 350.org, voters will be looking for more than broad support. Many progressive democrats are demanding candidates formally endorse the Green New Deal, while others expect candidates to refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry — a long standing tradition with presidential hopefuls.
Currently, only Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee have specific climate change platforms.
Image via Molly Adams