© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Climate Change on the Forefront of Many Voters' Minds; Not Receiving Much Attention from Candidates

Don Becker, USGS
Flooded street in Cedar Rapids near 13th Ave. and J Street

Climate change, while a major issue with huge ramifications, has been nearly lost in the clamor of this year's election campaigns. During all three presidential debates – a total of some four and a half hours of debating – less than six minutes was spent discussing the candidates’ policies related to climate change.

Despite this lack of attention, global warming has proven to be another highly polarized issue between the two major party candidates vying for the presidency. While Donald Trump has expressed the belief that global warming is a "hoax," Hillary Clinton acknowledged in the wake of Hurricane Hermine that there is a real threat posed to the country by climate change.

According to Scott Spak, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa, unlike in the political arena, there is little disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of climate change.

“Ninety-seven percent of atmospheric scientists and climate scientists agree on the same facts,” Spak says. “The climate is changing. More specifically, it’s warming. It’s been warming more recently than before. It’s us. It hasn’t stopped. The heat is mainly in the ocean. The sea level is rising. Glaciers and sea ice sheets are shrinking. CO2 is mostly the reason for this – it’s up 40 percent recently.”

As for Trump’s statement that climate change is a hoax, the director of Drake University’s Environmental Science & Policy Program, David Courard-Hauri, says it’s time to put it to rest.

“There’s not much to say about that. It’s been debunked. The idea that it might be a hoax is difficult to get one’s head around anymore.”

In Courard-Hauri’s opinion, Trump’s skepticism is not representative of the Republican Party as a whole, and global warming doesn’t need to be a partisan issue at all.

“The real question is, how do we come together as a planet to address climate change?”

In this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Spak and Courard-Hauri about global warming, public policy, and the 2016 election.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River