As the 2024 election rapidly approaches, every climate-conscious American has to take on the duty of trying to steer the United States to a better future. For adults, it means voting. Those younger than 18 have a different role to play: spreading awareness of climate change, of what we can do to stop it, and the stances of the candidates.
As an adult myself, I am faced with the question of whom to vote for out of the 13 candidates. It is easy to determine the non-options, such as Donald Trump, who claims climate change is a hoax; or Vivek Ramaswamy, who holds the same belief. Other candidates that fail to properly address climate change are: Ron DeSantis, who will focus on American “dominance” and undoing Biden’s policies; Asa Hutchinson, who will remove “excessive scrutiny” on fossil fuels; Tim Scott, whose only opinion on climate change is that we need to “keep our jobs at home”; and Nikki Haley, whose stance largely focuses on blaming China and India.
While Mike Pence stated that climate change was a “myth” in the 2000s, he changed his mind in 2016 saying that there was “no question” that humans have impacted the climate. He now states that “radical environmentalists” are exaggerating the impact of climate change. Pence plans on utilizing an “all of the above” approach to climate change, hoping to make the United States the world’s leading energy producer by 2040. Chris Christie plans to take the same approach, declaring that we “can’t disarm ourselves economically while we convert to cleaner energy.” Doug Burgum on the other hand plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 “without a single mandate” via carbon capture, hydrogen, and biofuels. He is anti-solar energy due to Chinese solar panel manufacturing relying on coal plant factories for energy.
Pence, Christie, and Burgum are better than the former mentioned; however, they are not nearly as invested in climate change as the final three candidates: Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Marianne Williamson.
Biden has declared that climate change is an “existential threat to humanity”; during his presidency, he has reversed Trump’s destructive actions, reentering the United States into the Paris climate agreement in addition to revoking permits for Keystone Pipeline projects. Thus, Biden has proved that he is a champion of the climate and will take action to mitigate and prevent climate change whenever possible; certainly he is a safe, stable choice for the election.
But is he doing enough? His opponents say no.
Kennedy Jr. has the impressive and promising quality of being an environmental lawyer. He aims to protect wild lands, curb logging, oil drilling, and mining, and contain suburban sprawl. He is also totally anti-fracking; he has talked about outright banning fracking nationwide. He is more aggressive than Biden in his climate action beliefs and proposed policies, which makes him a very attractive candidate to voters who think that Biden is not sufficiently combating climate change.
Meanwhile, Williamson is the most radical of the three: she believes that climate denial is the largest problem of the United States (quoting Sir Robert Swann: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”), and that the only way to effectively combat climate change is a “full scale climate emergency mobilization effort”, similar to the war effort in World War II. This would mean a major cultural change in the United States: major government funding for climate action, the government calling upon all civilians to take action against, labor forces, etc. The main goal of the nation would be to focus on climate. Williamson has said that upon being elected, she will declare a national emergency to quickly and effectively mobilize the nation to combat climate change.
With the three main candidates, Biden, Kennedy Jr., and Williamson, who is the right one? Biden is safe, Kennedy Jr. claims Biden isn’t doing enough, and Williamson is the most radical of them all. But perhaps radical action is what we need in the face of a radical threat. A counterpoint against Williamson would be that while Biden has much political experience and Kennedy Jr. is an environmental lawyer, Williamson is only an author and spiritual leader of the Church of Today. Her lack of experience could prove catastrophic when we are in such fragile times. With this in mind, I think the answer is clear:
Vote for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He will do more than Biden, and he has the environmental training to better understand the crisis we face.
Ryan Wilson is a student at Rochester Institute of Technology.
The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Published letters are not edited, and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Beacon or its staff. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].