A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)

University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

How climate change and U.S.-China relations could affect the 2020 elections were top of mind last week at a University of Washington presentation.

The presentation was given by Aseem Prakash, the founding director of the UW Center for Environmental Politics, and Susan Whiting, an associate professor and adjunct in the Jackson School of International Studies and the School of Law.

Climate change

With wildfires raging across the West Coast in recent weeks, climate change and environmental policy has once again pushed its way into political talking points. During the first presidential debate, the Green New Deal and climate policy were discussed, even though they weren’t on the original topics list.

Prakash said since 2011, polls have found support for prioritizing environmental policy. But when stacked against other political items, it is consistently ranked lower. In the 2016 and 2018 elections, climate change was not a top issue. And this year, a Pew Research poll revealed that voters ranked climate change near the bottom of their concerns — well below health care, the economy, the Supreme Court and coronavirus.

But does that mean climate issues aren’t important to voters? Prakash said they are. In states like Montana and Colorado, many voters value climate issues. And in competitive Congressional races on the Atlantic Coast, Trump has placed bans on offshore oil drilling.

Even though these are climate-friendly policies, Prakash said they’re being enacted by a Republican president, sans climate change dialogue.

“It seems that there’s a sufficient number of environmental voters,” he said.

Competitive races seem to push politicians to act on the environment when it benefits local residents.

This could play out in Snoqualmie Valley races in the 5th Legislative state district, for example, where Ingrid Anderson (D) is challenging incumbent Mark Mullet (D) from the left, and his record of not supporting some climate policies promoted by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This policy has pros and cons,” Prakash said.

The advantage is increasing pressure on Democrats to enact more aggressive policies. But the downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

U.S.-China relations

International relations are also likely to play a role in this year’s election, Whiting said. She sees two key flashpoints on the horizon that will affect U.S.-China relations in coming years.

The first is U.S. policy in the Taiwan Strait. China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, and the U.S. recognizes China as the government of Taiwan. Historically, the U.S. has pursued a strategy of ambiguity as it simultaneously attempts to deter China from threatening Taiwan, but also keeping Taiwan from antagonizing China.

Officials in President Donald Trump’s White House and Congress are calling for explicit support for Taiwan against China. But this carries the risk of violent conflict, Whiting said.

The second flashpoint is the South China Sea, international law, freedom of navigation and competing territorial claims. China has created militarized islands in the region, despite The Hague ruling China’s claim to the region as invalid.

Both Trump and former President Barack Obama stepped up freedom of navigation campaigns, but Trump has been doing it unilaterally. Whiting said presidential nominee Joe Biden, if elected, will likely conduct more multilateral navigation campaigns with U.S. military allies.

But both Trump and Biden believe in a stronger policy against China. And both parties have swung against the idea that integrating China into a global economy will make it a supporter of the global international order.

And similarly, Whiting said neither candidate or party has a good solution or plan for creating a peaceful resolution to these disputes.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

Firefighters work out a plan to address the fire as quickly as possible. Courtesy photo/Kirkland Fire Department 2018.
Proposition to support Kirkland emergency services on the Nov. 3 ballot

The ballot measure for a Kirkland property tax levy is the first proposal in almost 30 years

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pederson
Wildfires, forest health are key issues in race to lead DNR

Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson is challenging incumbent Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

power grid electricity power lines blackouts PG&E (Shutterstock)
State extends moratorium on some electric, gas shutoffs

Investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in WA can’t disconnect customers through April.

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Public Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.