Moderators of the Republican and Democratic presidential primary debates in Florida are being urged to ask candidates about climate change. The topic is especially significant in Florida, a state at risk from rising sea levels where Latino voters make up an important portion of electorate and consistently indicate that climate change is “extremely or very important” to them.
Democratic and Republican presidential primary debates will take place in Miami, Florida on March 9 and 10, respectively. The Democratic debate will be hosted by Univision and The Washington Post, featuring Univision's Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas and The Post's Karen Tumulty as moderators -- it will be cast simultaneously on CNN. The Republican debate will be hosted by CNN, Salem Radio, and The Washington Times, and be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper, with Dana Bash, Salem Radio's Hugh Hewitt, and The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan joining as questioners.
According to the Pew Research Center, Latino voters in Florida play a crucial role in “determining the outcome of the state's presidential vote.” Latinos make up 18.1 percent of eligible voters in Florida.
Climate change is one of the issues that the Latino voting bloc cares about the most -- even more than non-Hispanic whites, according to a February 2015 poll by The New York Times, Stanford University, and the nonpartisan Resources for the Future. As the Times noted, the poll indicated that a majority of Hispanics rate climate change as “extremely or very important to them personally,” and 63 percent think “the federal government should act broadly to address global warming.” More recently, a September 2015 Latino Decisions poll found that 76 percent of registered Latino voters in Florida are in favor of national clean energy standards, while 74 percent “strongly support” measures to combat climate change.
Florida Latinos care deeply about climate change because they stand to suffer some of its worst consequences. The Latino population is more likely to live in counties near the coastline -- such as Miami-Dade or Broward, where Hispanics are more than 25 percent of the total population. As the Sun Sentinel has noted, in just the next 15 years climate change-induced sea level rise in South Florida will result in “a range of hardships, from endangered drinking water supplies to a degradation of public services.” And according to some mapped projections of rising sea levels, large portions of these counties could be underwater by 2100.
Yet, climate change has been repeatedly glossed over in presidential debates this primary season, prompting a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors to call on debate moderators to address the issue in the upcoming presidential debates in the state.
As New Climate Economy's Helen Mountford wrote in a March 5 letter to the editor in The Miami Herald, “Florida is the right place” to make climate change a “major focus” of a presidential debate, since Florida, with its “more than 1,350 miles of coastline,” is already experiencing the damaging effects of rising sea levels.