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Clashing climate visions in Iowa sets the tone for US leadership race

Creative Commons: Stuart Seeger, 2006

Creative Commons: Stuart Seeger, 2006

As US presidential candidates sought to win over Iowans Monday evening, voters were given a taste of what lies ahead for the race to the White House, as contenders landed miles apart on climate.

Leading up to yesterday’s caucuses in Iowa – the first state to hold a vote – Democratic frontrunners flagged the urgency of acting on climate, with Hillary Clinton aiming to dismantle skepticism and Bernie Sanders placing emphasis on taxing carbon.

Among Republican contenders, views ranged from acknowledging climate change but downplaying its priority to fully dismissing the science behind the notion. Some candidates have even pushed to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Last night’s Republican victory went to Ted Cruz, while Clinton and Sanders remain virtually tied among Democrats.

Now, with just one week until the next major window for party voters in New Hampshire, the Iowa caucuses highlight where there are rifts and overlap among candidates on climate issues that matter to Americans; potentially thrusting these issues to the forefront of national debates.

Key Points

  • Failing to step up for the climate would be devastating for Iowans and New Hampshirites. According to the National Climate Assessment (NCA), Iowa will lose millions of dollars in flooding expenses alone if climate change isn’t contained to safe levels. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire – the host of the next major vote in this presidential election – rising temperatures are aggravating concentration levelsof pollutants in the air, posing major health risks, like asthma, for vulnerable groups including children and the elderly.
  • The caucuses and primary lay the ground for what’s really at stake for voters. Yesterday’s Iowa caucus and next week’s New Hampshire primary are a chance for presidential candidates to drive early momentum in their favour. But it also highlights what is a stake this November when it comes to climate change. While the early voting states are a magnet for attention, as the first two states to cast their ballots they will set the tone for voters ahead of the lengthy process to come.

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