[image-1] During Tuesday’s CBS News presidential debate that took place over two hours at about 15 feet above sea level in Charleston, no questions were posed about climate change, sea level rise, or the environment in general.
Coastal South Carolina residents have been forced to reckon with a reality that includes stronger and more frequent catastrophic storms, flooding as a part of daily life, and a very real danger to homes, properties, and entire cultures due to changing climate.
“We’re seeing a record number of floods in Charleston and yet they can’t take time out of the debate to talk in any meaningful about climate change and sea level rise?” says John Tynan, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.
“Frankly it’s a bit tone deaf from the debate moderators’ perspective,” Tynan told the City Paper on Wednesday.
Voters head to the polls on Saturday to cast their ballots in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Polling from the Conservation Voters in January showed that 64 percent of S.C. voters overall believed climate change was a somewhat or extremely serious problem, including 94 percent of Democratic respondents and 89 percent of African American participants in the poll. [content-2] That survey, along with exit polls from other early primary states, local and national news clips, and more showing climate as a top issue to voters and candidates were sent to local and national press in advance of Tuesday’s debate, Tynan says. Several candidates mentioned climate change, but questions were posed on the topic.
The National Weather Service reported a record-high 89 individual coastal flood events along the Southeast and South Carolina coast in 2019, more than 50 percent over the previous record in 2015.
About 110 minutes deep into what was at times a shallow debate, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, whose campaign was centered on a promise to ban offshore drilling, noticed no questions were being asked about the issue that won him a seat in Congress representing the area where the debate was being held.
[embed-2] Cunningham, a Democrat, won his first-ever election in a historically Republican district against a Trump-backed opponent with conservation issues at the core of his campaign.
Farther left on the ideological spectrum, fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called it “horrifying” that no questions were posed about climate change.
“This is a huge missed opportunity,” Tynan says. “Not only because this is an urgent issue that we and the world need to address, but because this is a top tier issue for voters both across the aisle and within the Democratic Party.”
“Climate action, environmental issues, conservation, these are topics that resonate across the political spectrum, and if we’re not talking about it in places like Charleston that are threatened every single day, when are we going to talk about it?”