Florida is ground zero for climate change catastrophe. And yet, there’s no guarantee all (or most) candidates will even address the environment on tonight’s stage -- the Democratic National Committee has staunchly refused to host a climate-specific debate, in spite of a growing urgency around climate change in our country.
We know America is rife with problems, and climate change impacts all of them in ways that are impossible to ignore. The U.S. will have to address a new wave of immigration as climate refugees depart their home countries.
We’ll face more and more infrastructural damage as worsening hurricanes pummel our schools and homes. Water issues will hit our fishing and tourism industries hard, and we’ll need to devote new resources to public health as vector-borne illnesses are made worse by warming temperatures and thriving mosquito populations.
On a national electoral scale, Florida matters. As the host of the first round of Democratic debates, we represent a microcosm of the climate crisis that will eventually envelop our entire country. We’re ground zero for climate change. Politically, we’re a major player, having provided the deciding electoral votes in more than one recent presidential election. But few people know this: we are one of the few states where Republican legislators are working on proactive environmental policy alongside Democrats. And, regardless of party affiliation, we should be holding our presidential candidates to the highest possible standard when it comes to climate policy. We need people in office who take climate change for the threat it is. Crisis has already descended on Florida, and the worst is likely still to come.
Other states may still be able to pretend climate change is a far-off issue, but for Florida, it is the here and now. It’s up to us to push hard for our survival. This means holding state legislators accountable -- we need more proactive solutions to combat toxic algae, and a statewide fracking ban as the governor promised. But we also cannot forget our role on the national stage.
If we organize, if we rise up and speak out, we can shift the discussion to where it needs to be in order to adequately address climate change. Our future literally depends on it. As Florida goes, so goes the nation.