Last week’s Bloomberg Businessweek made news with its cover.
That title, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid”, created waves post-Sandy’s devastating storm surge waves and certainly upset those who the magazine’s editor directly challenged as “stupid”.
With great uncertainty as to the political reality in America come tomorrow, the title suggests something beyond the connection of Global Warming and severe weather events. When it comes to American electoral politics and tomorrow’s political reality, most people don’t seem to realize that ‘it’s the climate, stupid’.
This post won’t seek to analyze or detail every aspect of meaning for this, but let us consider …
- If, as most predict, President Obama wins reelection, a telling (and decisive) moment might have been the effective Federal response to Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, the President’s calm and capable engagement (to the point of earning (and receiving) praise from major Romney surrogates, like Governor Christie). Thus, perhaps, President Obama might owe global warming’s impacts on extreme weather events for tipping the election.
- Related, almost certainly, to the magazine cover: independent New York Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement, just last week, heavily emphasized the stark differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney (and their respective parties) on climate change issues. Did Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement carry any weight in these final, frantic, days of the election season?
- The two parties have been united in their determined climate silence. The Obama White House determined, back in early 2009 (if not earlier), that talking about climate change was a losing political issue and thus focused on “green jobs” and discussed solar/wind/other clean energy without any serious discussion of climate-change issues. The Romney campaign team seems to clearly understand that the climate science denial required to win the Republican nomination plays poorly with the majority of Americans. While Mitt played to the anti-science friendly audience at the Republican National Convention with a joke about climate change, his advisors seem to clearly understand that President Obama’s responding line at the Democratic National Convention played much better with the electorate (especially undecided voters). What Republican operatives seem to understand better than Democratic Party political operatives: a forceful and thoughtful Democratic Party engagement on climate issues increases Democratic Party base enthusiasm, sways independent voters, and is essentially irrelevant to Republican base voters. Combining taking the wrong lessons from the 2009 Cap & Trade fight and ‘micro-targeting’ efforts to win coal-supporting voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic political ‘pros’ seem to have coordinated with Romney’s political advisors to keep climate change off the Presidential political landscape.
- Today will almost certainly end with the Republicans continuing to hold the majority in the House of Representatives. The DCCC’s climate silence has, in fact, even been more stunning than the Obama-Biden campaign’s. Analyzing tight race situations and examining smart climate change political engagement, a very reasonable question to ask: Would serious discussion of climate change throughout the election year have flipped enough seats to have Nancy Pelosi return as Speaker of the House in 2013? And, with that in mind, should it be a central focus for 2014?
As for that last bullet discussion, consider 2012 in the United States when it comes to climate disruption:
- Massive record breaking heat waves across most of the United States, with hot temperature record after hot temperature record falling almost too fast for the computing systems to keep track. Unless we have a shockingly cold November and December, this will likely go down as the hottest year in U.S. temperature records. (And, remembering that this is ‘global’, amid what is going to be one of the hottest years (if not hottest) in global recorded temperatures.)
- The major drought, which continues despite Sandy in many states, devastating agricultural production with billions of dollars of economic impacts.
- The Derecho that did damage through much of the Mid-Atlantic and shut down the Federal government.
- Record-breaking wildfires, worsened by climate disruption driven droughts and trees sickened in part due climate change driven conditions.
- Hurricane (‘Frankenstorm’) Sandy’s devastating impact across a large swath of the eastern United States, with mounting numbers of dead (both directly and indirectly during clean-up and deaths due to inadequate heating/otherwise) and perhaps more than $50 billion of damage.
Consider the situation in spring 2012, politically, as Mitt Romney fought for and won the Republican nomination with an embrace of anti-science global warming denial. The Democratic Party, as a political entity, engaged in climate silence. And, for month after month, since then, the nation underwent searing climate disruption influenced (caused …) conditions while the Democratic Party continued diligently to engage in climate silence. And, on the eve of the election, a massive storm influenced (caused …) by climate disruption create massive damage and seized (legitimately) the nation’s attention. And, the Democratic Party — as a political entity — remained locked in its determined policy of climate silence. Climate Change — the respect for and understanding of science, the need for government as a tool to respond to such large challenges, the relationship of climate change to a need for changed energy policies and practices, etc … — is one of the most glaring differences (even more than taxes, for example) between the two political parties. With heat waves, drought, Derecho(s), wildfires, hurricane, and other climate disruption-related events hitting the vast majority of Americans in 2012 and growing numbers of Americans understanding the links between climate change and extreme weather events, Democratic Party political operatives left this glaring difference between the two parties on the cutting room table because they (seemingly) failed to understand that not just is this an important issue, not just is this a basic moral and ethical issue, but that discussing and engaging on climate issues is a winning political issue for the Democratic Party and Democratic Party candidates.
With a home for a Democratic Congress to support President Obama come January 2014, let us hope that Democratic Party political operatives learn this critical lesson from the 2012 election season.