For too long, the Democratic Party “machine” has been eerily silent when it comes to the scientific consensus on climate change and the risks that catastrophic climate chaos creates for America and Americans. While much has been said and heard on ‘clean energy’ and ‘green jobs’, the words “climate change” and “global warming” have almost seemed to disappear from the Democratic Party’s lexicon as the Republican Party headed into ever-more extreme rejection of science with embrace and promotion of fossil-foolish global warming denialism. Thus, when it came to political leadership, the voice in the Village Square has been overwhelming shrill rejection of scientific knowledge.
The Democratic Party’s aversion to climate discussions derived from a mistaken ‘Village’ perception that climate change was somehow a losing political issue. This mistaken perception derived, it seemed, from concerns over how Faux-News watchers might react with serious discussion of climate science issues. In fact, as a Yale University report (pdf) recently documented, engaging on climate change is a winning political issue for Democratic politicians. Discussing climate issues won’t get Tea Party-ites any angrier but they will engage with open-minded independent voters concerned about climate issues and motivate Democratic Party activists disheartened by what they see as inadequate engagement on the most critical issue that humanity faces.
Six months ago, those concerned on climate issues saw a ray of hope that Presidential candidate Barack Obama might engage heavily in climate issues. In a Rolling Stone interview, the President correctly noted (in what is actually an understatement) that “those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem.” The President also predicted that climate change would become an issue in the 2012 campaign.
After that ray of hope, however, the silence from the White House and Obama-Biden campaign seemed deafening with the slightest of mentions of climate on the campaign’s “environment” webpage (commenting that fuel efficiency measures will reduce carbon emissions and help address climate change) and week following week without campaign commentary or White House press conferences about climate change even as the nation burned (both with high temperatures and fires), faced record droughts, crop yields were being devastated, and … The crickets were thriving amid the stunted corn stalks.
The Republican Party continues to play to its anti-science base with candidate Mitt Romney and those at the Republican National Convention seeing climate change to be a joking issue.
With Mitt’s joking false pitting of economy vs the environment (when, to be clear, it is environment + economy), President Obama’s prediction that climate change would become an issue in the 2012 campaign seems to be coming true.
Since then, in multiple campaign events, President Obama has made comments along these lines:
The decisions we make as a country on big issues like the economy and jobs and taxes and education and energy and war and climate change — all these decisions will directly affect your life in very personal ways. And I’ve got to say, this is something I’m acutely aware of when I make these decisions, because they’re decisions that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, as well.
Governor Romney wants to pass a new $5 trillion tax cut targeted towards the wealthiest Americans. That’s not going to cut our debt. Ignoring inequality doesn’t make it go away. Denying climate change won’t make it stop. These things won’t make for a brighter future. They won’t make your future stronger.
As Joe Romm put it so well in an analogy to Harry Potter, the President is speaking outloud the name that can’t be said.
And, the President’s lines in speeches are being echoed in campaign mailings. From an email in my inbox,
Here’s something Mitt Romney actually joked about with pride — and plenty of scorn — while formally accepting the Republican nomination for president of the United States:
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.”
And the crowd went wild.
It is nothing short of terrifying to imagine a party that openly mocks climate change taking back the White House.
It is “terrifying to imagine a [major political] party that openly mocks climate change” let alone dealing with the reality that global warming denial dominates one of America’s two major parties and that this energetic anti-science attitude could occupy the Oval Office.
The campaign took the correct measure and moved from climate science to climate change mitigation, highlighting the difference between Obama-Biden and Mittens-LyinRyan when it comes to clean energy programs
The contrast between our candidate and theirs couldn’t be any clearer.
President Obama has more than doubled the amount of electricity we get from wind and solar over his first term — and his plans for wind power are expected to help grow the wind industry to support 100,000 jobs by 2016. Both Romney and Ryan want to kill the wind production tax credit, which could come at the expense of 37,000 American jobs. Oh, but they would keep giving $4 billion in tax breaks to Big Oil every single year.
And just this week, while President Obama’s administration finalized historic fuel economy standards to double our vehicles’ mileage by 2025 and cut carbon pollution from vehicles in half, the GOP adopted a platform that could kill investments in clean energy, and calls on Congress to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.
Surprise, surprise — according to the Los Angeles Times, the platform “was written at the direction of the Romney campaign,” making it heavily influenced by Big Oil interests.
So there you have it — the stakes for clean air, clean water, and clean energy jobs couldn’t be higher.
While most Americans wouldn’t, at this time, define the November choice in this way: this is truly an election about science — climate science and what to do about climate change not least of these issues.
Climate change’s emergence into the political dialogue in the past week suggests that the Obama-Biden campaign is waking up to how climate change — and respect for science (and scientists) — is not just an important policy arena but a winning political issue.
Note: An excellent, related discussion by Peter Sinclair, Is Obama Rolling Out a Climate Campaign?
As the reality of the arctic ice melt sinks in over coming weeks, and as extreme weather continues, Romney, and the GOP in general, may regret having made this a go-to soundbite in the campaign. There are rumors that Romney will begin trying to walk back the climate rhetoric, more on that later, but the party as a whole is way out on a limb.
The question is, will Obama take advantage of the increasingly obvious disconnect, and begin to make climate an issue?
(Important) NOTE: The difference on climate change when it comes to Party platforms is stark. Climate Change is not in the GOP platform. The term appears 18 times in the Democratic Party Platform with some strong language. See here for extracts and a quickly look analysis.