This is a letter to the editor from Ithaca resident Elizabeth Riley. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the writer and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of The Ithaca Voice. To learn more about submitting letters, click here.

Despite continuing calls for a climate debate amongst those competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Democratic National Committee has been unwilling to commit, saying that such an event would create too great a focus on climate change at the expense of other issues. This short-sighted approach seems to willfully ignore the fact that the “other issues,” like every other aspect of human life, are now taking place against a backdrop of climate breakdown, and can no longer be debated or even understood without taking climate change into account.

Climate change clearly presents a major threat to all aspects of policy. It also presents a golden opportunity to, in the course of restructuring our built environment to a sustainable standard, address a wide variety of other concerns that are intertwined with the climate crisis, such as immigration, income inequality, and infrastructure. Creating a focus on climate change is necessary and appropriate, the very least we can do in the face of a crisis this large and encompassing, and it need not leave other important issues behind. But a failure to focus on climate change will result in it being our only priority in years to come, unquestionably at the expense of nearly everything else.

Because the DNC has failed to lead, cable news channels are now planning a climate-focused Town Hall with 2020 candidates. Although this is a testament to the serious and ongoing nature of calls for a climate debate, it is embarrassing and deeply disappointing that the DNC is still refusing to take a leadership role at this critical time. Since the federal government is not taking initiative on this critical issue, grassroots leadership is imperative. Ithaca’s leaders, including wonderful Mayor Svante Myrick, Common Council, the Town Board and Tompkins County Legislature, should join Democrats across the nation, and the Sunrise Movement in particular, in calling for a climate debate.

Elizabeth Riley
Town of Ithaca

Sunrise Movement Ithaca

Featured image: Ithaca youth joined in the Global Climate Strike, March 2019. (Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice)