Selima Hussain / Staff writer
From a staggering economy drowning in debt to gay marriage and abortion rights being fiercely debated on, the problems the United States is facing right now are foreboding, controversial and endless.
But a particularly “hot” topic is missing. Climate change and other environmental concerns are rarely being discussed.
“[President] Obama used to say that he would bring the climate into the forefront of his campaign, but he hardly has mentioned it,” said Neptune Srimal, an environmental science professor at the University. “Neither has Romney. But this is understandable because Republicans are by and large anti-climate change.”
While it is true that many Republicans are anti-climate change, Dennis Par, the president of College Republicans, takes a different standpoint.
“There’s a difference between being a Republican and being stupid,” said Par, who is double majoring in biology and chemistry. “Global warming does exist.”
Par said although tackling environmental issues is important, America’s main concentration right now should be improving the economy.
“I understand it’s important to protect our planet, but we want to focus more on our economy and job rates now. Companies like BP would definitely make more profits, hire more people, create new jobs. For the moment, we need to focus on jobs and the well-being of our citizens. Then, we can worry about the environment,” said Par.
Shuli Mishali, a sophomore majoring in political science and philosophy, believes otherwise.
“I think politicians should be paying more attention to environmental issues, especially when we look at events like the oil spill that happened four years ago and resources becoming more expensive,” Mishali said. “Every car needs oil, and by now, we should have our cars running on environmentally sound fuel. We have the technology, and we need to be addressing it.”
Christian Chavarro, a sophomore majoring in public relations, thinks environmental problems have not been heavily discussed in the campaigns because people don’t see the long term effects.
“This is due to the fact that they take a while to compound. People are more pressed with the issues they can see at hand now, like the economy,” said Chavarro.
According to National Geographic, sea levels have risen faster on the U.S. East Coast than in other regions around the globe, about three to four times higher than the global average.
This phenomenon is due to the melting of Arctic ice, which is happening as a result of the gradual warming of the planet. According to the Union for Concerned Scientists, June 2012 was the hottest month ever recorded.
David Ullman, a senior majoring in international relations, acknowledges why it hasn’t been a strong topic during the campaigns.
“In terms of importance, the environment is pretty primary. It affects everyone. It affects our agriculture, water, droughts, food…” said Ullman, who hopes to receive a certificate in agricultural studies.
“At the same time, the goal of each candidate is to get elected. And in order to do that, they have to appeal to the issues people care about. A wide mass of people don’t care that much about the environment, so that won’t factor in as much as issues like abortion, gay marriage, the economy, and other issues people seem to care more about.”
Srimal agrees with this view.
“I think both candidates are weary about climate change, but since votes are so polarized—the undecided makes up around 7 percent—neither candidate wants to tip the boat,” said Srimal. “Obama does not want to be identified as a ‘bleeding heart liberal.’ He wants to consummate as many votes as he can. And Romney also has nothing to gain by raising these issues. They’re thinking about being shed in an unfavorable light.”
There is, however, one environmental topic that has been attracting political attention. Fracking, or the process of blasting underground rocks to release natural gases, is something that has positive and negative aspects.
“Fracking is causing problems because when you send chemicals into underground water, that water can get mixed with the aquifer. Many of those chemicals could be carcinogens,” said Srimal.
While fracking has the potential to create cost-efficient fuel and natural gas for America, it can also pollute groundwater reserves.
“None of the oil companies will tell you exactly what chemicals they’re pumping into the ground, so you don’t even know exactly is contaminating the water. But, it’s giving the U.S. much more energy independence, and cleaner fuel than burning coal.”