The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. I was surprised… thought we would have covered that one before.
The two 70+ year old candidates went back-and-forth on their climate perspectives, revealing a stark contrast between Trump’s preference for passing the buck and Biden’s parroted Dem talking points.
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The scoop: The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. They spent 10 minutes on the topic.
Why it matters: Recent polls revealed 12% of likely voters considered climate change to be their #1 issue behind the economy and coronavirus.
Stuff to know: Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is made up of 300 billion trees and 1/5 of the world’s species. Trump acknowledge anthropogenic climate change (sort of) for the first time.
Bottom line: The world is suffering from a public health disaster that has leaked into the global economy, yet voters still consider climate change a centerpiece issue. That is a sign of things to come.
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There’s a lot of ‘facts’ to check during the debate, but between the muck of mutual mud-slinging most Americans don’t really care about, one topic was especially interesting… it was about the Amazon.
Biden incorrectly asserted that the Amazon’s carbon sink offsets US carbon emissions.
During the debate, Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation, and mentioned the importance of the Amazon. But let’s clarify.
While the Amazon rainforest absorbs a significant portion of the Earth’s carbon dioxide, its two billion metric tons of absorbed CO2 each year doesn’t come close to the estimated 5.1 billion metric tons produced by the US annually.
He got it wrong, but I’m happy Biden brought it up.
The Amazon is a natural phenomenon that is hurting right now, and it needs attention. The massive rainforest is home to 1/5 of all species on Earth, and its 300 billion trees store 20% of all the carbon in the Earth’s biomass. Needless to say, the Amazon is a big part of the Earth’s carbon cycle.
Scientists are concerned that warming tropics will cause the plant and soil microbe respiration to increase faster than the rate of photosynthesis. In turn, more carbon will be trapped in the air.
Researchers also found that Amazonian trees (not harmed by human interference) are dying at faster rates due to faster growth rates exacerbated by more C02 stimulation.
The Amazon plays an essential role in the carbon cycle, but we’re putting too much pressure on it. Its 300 billion trees are working overtime. So thanks Joe, for pointing that out.
“I want crystal clean water and air”
Trump was forced to talk about climate too, and he had his fair share of gaffes.
For example, he mentioned how carbon levels were down, which is true, but we sort of had a nation-wide lockdown black sheep moment. So not too sure if lower emissions in 2020 is a policy win. Especially given his laundry list of environmental rollbacks.
Meanwhile, Trump overemphasized the role of forest management when asked about the wildfires of the West. Sweeping out deadwood is an important part of mitigating risk from wildfires. With that said, scientists point to climate change as the main culprit.
So there were some inaccuracies. Still, the climate debate was an interesting national moment worthy of historical consideration.
The American Conservation Coalition (a conservative environmental group) noted in a statement, “for the first time, President Trump acknowledged that human activity has, at least in part, caused climate change.”
The climate debate was an interesting national moment worthy of historical consideration.
A sign of things to come
I don’t think climate is at the core of the swing-voter’s mind, but hopefully it got people thinking. During the discussion, Trump mocked the feasibility of the Green New Deal, while Biden distanced himself from the progressive proposal, focusing instead on his Clean Energy Plan
One would think Americans today are thinking about bills, social equity, safety and health. Long-term, slow-moving topics like climate change are normally considered risky on the political stage. But we brought it up anyway, because it matters, and people want to talk about it. And that’s a good sign.
In a NPR/PBS/Marist poll, 12% of voters pointed to climate change as their most important issue. If you looked at just Democrats, that number jumped up to 22% (it was their #1 issue). Concern for climate change is trending up. With that trend, businesses, governments, and individuals are reshaping their portfolios, strategies and lifestyles to match the needs of a demanding future.
America’s mutual consideration for the environment and economy in a distressed market should not be underestimated. That is a powerful indicator that active voters are concerned. Our nation’s public servants should take note.
146 million eyeballs
The Presidential debate garnered the attention of 73 million brains in real-time.
For those of us who weren’t checking the freezer for ice cream by the time climate came up, we got to hear two national candidates talk about the environment for ten uninterrupted (interrupted) minutes. The world is starting to hear our call to action, now let’s get to work.