The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis

The Democratic National Committee continues to ignore the most pressing issue of our time — the global climate crisis — by refusing to allow presidential candidates to hold a debate focused specifically on the climate. Given that the president has launched a wholesale scorched earth attack on all things environmental, it’s far past time for the Democrats, if they truly seek to lead the nation in 2020, to make their environmental agenda known to the public whose votes they seek.

Virtually every state in the nation is already suffering debilitating, destructive and vastly expensive impacts from global warming. Farmers can’t plant their fields in the Midwest because they’re underwater from record high floods. Massive storms have swept the Eastern Seaboard as the raging and rising sea claims more land every year. The West Coast is fighting wildfires burning not in forests, but in scrub brush that no amount of raking or thinning will remedy. Alaska is again on fire where there shouldn’t be any fires. The Rockies are facing a host of climate-caused assaults including extirpation of native species and invasion by non-native species as they move north with the warming climate.

In the meantime, President Trump is doing everything possible to exacerbate the harsh impacts of global warming. Just last week the Department of Agriculture announced it would be issuing new administrative rules for the Forest Service to undermine compliance with the foundational National Environmental Policy Act. Why? To speed up permitting for more oil and gas drilling, coal and mineral mining, and deforestation couched in the phony rubric of forest restoration.

Make no mistake, the only thing Donald Trump has going for him is the economy that he inherited from his nemesis President Obama — but for which he takes full and unwarranted credit. To keep that economy rolling in the face of a global economic slowdown, Trump has unleashed wide-open, broad spectrum pillaging of the nation’s natural resources for the sole purpose of aiding his re-election bid which, at this point, isn’t looking great. He’s far behind Democratic challengers in states he carried last election and, although he’d never admit it, the causes are the results of his own actions — tariffs and global warming impacts.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has made the climate crisis a central tenant of his presidential bid, which should come as no surprise considering his state faces the environmental and economic crises from a rising and warming ocean. Higher tides, devastating storm surges and failing runs of salmon that have nourished the area’s inhabitants for millennia are just some of the impacts that motivated Washington’s legislature to demand its utilities cease to use coal-fired power — a move that now impacts Montana’s antiquated and uneconomical coal plants, spreading the crisis beyond Washington’s borders.

As predicted, Montana’s governor, Steve Bullock, did not make the cut for the first Democratic presidential debate, which was revealed late last week. And quite frankly, Bullock would not be well-served by joining a debate on the climate crisis because he’s still supporting coal, gas and oil development and deforestation. Nonetheless, Montana would benefit from such a debate since we, as a northern tier state, are increasingly negatively impacted by the climate crisis. Montana’s voters deserve to hear which candidates are willing to enact which policies to protect our future and generations yet to come.

The climate crisis, with increasing warnings of “catastrophe” from scientists and agencies, deserves its own debate — and it will ill-serve the Democratic National Committee to ignore or try to postpone honest and open discussion by those seeking the presidency.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.