The National Children’s Campaign — an organization working to make sure American children and youth are a priority, by promoting “health, education, safety, economic and environmental security” — has been working with some of the biggest names in politics over the past few months in order to get 2020 candidates to go on the record with their thoughts on the looming climate crisis –- and to explain exactly how they plan to fix it if elected.
Jonah Gottlieb, 17, the Executive Director of the National Children’s Campaign, explains to Parentology why he thinks 2020 candidates are taking the topic of climate crisis seriously, and why the environment needs us now more than ever.
Which candidates have been responsive?
We’ve been in contact with every single candidate from both parties, as well as Howard Schultz, an independent candidate. For the Zero Hour Summit [in July], we had the candidates send in videos so they could address attendees. We received videos from eight candidates: Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Cory Booker, Governor Jay Inslee, Congressman John Delaney, Congressman Joe Sestak, and others. We’re hoping to expand that list for future events.
It’s really encouraging that we’re having this dialogue with these candidates. For the first time, in what seems like a really long time, presidential candidates, and other elected officials, are actually paying attention to the issues that matter to young people.
Why do you think is responsible for this shift?
I think they realize young people have political power. In fact, I’d argue young people have the most political power of any voting block, even though the majority of us cannot vote. That’s because there are 74 million of us and every single young person knows someone who can vote.
Everyone says they care about children, but they don’t vote like they have our interests in mind all the time. I don’t know how you can say that you care about children if you don’t vote to stop the climate crisis or improve our lives in other ways.
I sense we need to start leveraging our political power, because if everyone voted with the children in mind — with the youth of America in mind — these problems would be solved. We could have the changes we need because [politicians] would actually be [taking action as though] they cared about children, instead of just saying it in a political speech.
Young people have stood up and said, “This shouldn’t be our job. We’re having to remind you to [get involved] because you haven’t thus far. You haven’t done anything to save our lives.” The climate crisis, gun violence… all these issues are costing young people their lives. I think a lot of the candidates running do really care about children and they do really want to make a difference.
Where do you think 2020 Presidential candidates should focus in terms of climate change?
I think that the number one thing we need to do is lower carbon emissions and get as close to using 100 percent renewable energy as soon as humanly possible. Otherwise, we have no shot.
We need to get global temperature under control. In the coming years, we’re going to hit a point where all the carbon dioxide in the ice will be released and melt. Once that happens it [the impact of climate change] will be irreversible.
*For more information about the National Children’s Campaign, visit their website. You can also learn more about where the Presidential hopefuls stand on these topics, and more, at the Presidential Forum taking place on September 15th, at American University.