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Intersectional Climate Debate is Necessary for 2020 Primary

On August 24, members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted not to hold a climate focussed debate for the democratic candidates running in the upcoming 2020 primary. For the past few months, environmental activists from the Sunrise Movement, among others, have been demanding that the DNC hold a climate debate so that the candidates will be forced to show where they stand on progressive new policy ideas such as a Green New Deal or a carbon tax. A climate debate is necessary because it could clarify the policies each candidate plans to implement in office to address our climate crisis and the multitude of ways it affects society.

The DNC members who oppose the event are concerned that holding an issue-specific debate would not be fair to those who advocate for the many other problems democrats attempt to tackle. However, considering the existential crisis of climate change, it is entirely irresponsible to treat it as equal to one of the many other issues democrats are concerned with. Climate change affects every part of society, especially issues like immigration and healthcare, which are of major concern for democrats.

The climate crisis needs to be looked at with an intersectional lens and holding a climate debate would allow the public to participate in a more complex discussion about climate change.

The crisis at the border is typically talked about as having political causes, but there are also under appreciated environmental reasons that cause refugees to flee to the United States (US). Since 2008, an average of 24 million people have been displaced by natural disasters each year worldwide, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. These displaced people are climate refugees. Scientists have proven time and again that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased the amount and intensity of natural disasters. Currently, climate change is physically forcing people out of their homes and the US should be helping those who want to seek asylum. The right to seek asylum is not only essential to those fleeing violence perpetrated by organizations or governments, but also those escaping environmental catastrophes that the US contributes to. The World Bank credits the US with producing the second highest number of carbon emissions yearly worldwide. With this outsized responsibility for the climate crisis, our country has a duty to help house those affected by the actions we take. Immigration policy has clear connections to climate change which should not be ignored on the grounds that they are separate issues. The climate crisis needs to be looked at with an intersectional lens and holding a climate debate would allow the public to participate in a more complex discussion about climate change.

When it comes to healthcare, many feel human health is separate from the health of the earth, but there is in fact a lot of connection. The failing health of our environment is hurting individuals, but it especially impacts low income and marginalized communities. As air pollution increases due to fossil fuels, people who are exposed to low quality air on a daily basis develop more respiratory problems such as asthma. Worsening air quality disproportionately impacts people of color. According to 2019 research findings by the Union of Concerned Scientists, African American and Latinx people breath about 40 percent more particulate matter released by cars and trucks than the everyday white Californian. Not only do marginalized communities struggle more with climate related health issues, but they also have less access to healthcare. The United States Census Bureau determined that in 2017 Hispanics had a 10 percent higher likelihood of being uninsured than whites.

Respiratory problems are just the tip of the iceberg with climate change related health issues. These problems need bold solutions because healthcare, like immigration, is influenced by climate change. It is vital that these interconnections are addressed publicly in a climate change debate.

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