Candidates Exploit Students’ Climate Concerns

Teresa Schuster/Contributing Writer

Now that many young people will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2020, politicians, particularly left-wing ones, intend to capitalize on their desire to end climate change to gain support.

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, students are faced with an array of candidates who propose empty solutions to climate change, a major policy issue among Generation Z voters. This is the generation partially responsible for the success of climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, viewing them as champions willing to fight for the issues they care about.

Generation Z cares about climate change for a reason: they are the ones who will grapple with its effects. Studies have shown that later in this century, global warming and sea level will further rise, leading to population displacement and a higher vulnerability to natural disasters. These effects are especially pronounced in Miami, parts of which could be underwater by 2060. With the election upon us, voters are turning towards politicians who offer tangible solutions to this.

The candidates have all released climate plans, which are eerily similar. All of them include a plan to use net zero carbon emissions by various dates: 2030, 2045, 2050. By this time, none of them would still be president, but that isn’t the point, they say. They promise, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris included, to rejoin the Paris Agreement and enact climate change legislation in their first days in office.

Many of these candidates pledged not to knowingly accept money from the fossil fuel industry. But even so, now-former candidate Beto O’Rourke accepted over 500,000 dollars from it during his Senate campaign only a year ago. Joe Biden was about to attend a fundraiser hosted by one of its executives before last-minute media outrage convinced him otherwise.

If politicians like them aren’t aware that they’re doing this, it’s because they choose not to, turning a blind eye to the stark reality of these issues. They provide voters with a false sense of accomplishment, enabling people to feel that they are preserving the environment while supporting policies that are of no immediate consequence.

While some of these politicians may truly care about the environment, this leads to hypocritical behavior. They may rationalize using Air Force One to travel to climate conferences, thinking that the ends justify the means, that pragmatism is preferable to youthful idealism.

Activists like Thunberg disagree. She doesn’t want to reform the existing system while perpetuating damage to the environment; she wants to abolish it, and do so now, not 30 years too late. 

Minimizing environmental harm is necessary, and conventional measures, like asking corporations to reduce their pollution, aren’t enough to accomplish this goal. Activists like Thunberg understand this, and take action themselves. They believe that change begins with them, not vague policies to be pushed down the agenda for years.

Regardless of a person’s views on climate change and Thunberg’s activism, she can be admired for living what she believes, rather than justifying an easier but unsustainable lifestyle. Instead of simply applauding Thunberg when she criticizes them, politicians should emulate her and take decisive action to address climate change. And while it’s true that pragmatism is important in politics, politicians shouldn’t try to deceive voters about this.

Call it what it is: climate politics, not climate action.

Featured photo by Nick Amoscato on Flickr.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Have questions or comments for our writers? Send an email to with your name and the name of the column in the subject line.

Be the first to comment on "Candidates Exploit Students’ Climate Concerns"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.