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Climate Hawks’ Primary: A window on @SenSanders vs @HillaryClinton

March 7th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Simple truth:  Due to the dysfunctional nature of the American political process (and essentially in one major party), there is zero question that

  1. the Democratic Party candidate for President will be far better on climate and clean energy issues than the GOP candidate.
  2. anyone who considers themselves a Climate Hawk should work, full bore, to get the Democratic nominee elected.

This is a regretful truth of the American politics.

In a more rational world, the American people might be presented with a meaningful debate about how best to tackle climate change (nature (cap & trade, carbon fee, …) and size (full social cost of carbon, small incremental, …) of carbon pricing, government paying for clean energy deployment directly (such as via tax credits) and/or via mandates (renewable portfolio standards, etc …), etc … Sadly, this rational, reality-based debate is not occurring on the most crucial issue facing humanity in the 21st century (and for the centuries to come) and it will not occur in the Fall election. Thus, to the far too minimal extent that rational discussion of climate enters Presidential election discussions,  the ‘debate’ is within the Democratic party.

How should a Climate Hawk vote in the Democratic primaries (that remain)?

Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?

A seemingly simple question that causes many to step back and think seriously. Looking at campaign platforms on climate (People before Polluters (Sanders); Climate Change and Energy (Clinton)), rankings by environmental organizations, environmental organization endorsements, and otherwise are all useful and viable paths for comparing and contrasting the two on their climate issues.  Another angle is to look at key supporters and surrogates: who is around them.

In this manner, two people seem to provide a basis for a ‘surrogate’ discussion about the campaigns and candidates:

In short, having had the chance to interact with both and knowing people close to them, both of these men are
  • Very decent and highly competent
  • Knowledgeable, passionate, and eloquent on climate change
  • Experienced and meriting attention
John Podesta is the ultimate effective insider. He is a trusted confident of the “D” establishment (Clintons, Obamas, etc …). Podesta knows how to get things done within bureaucracies (within the Federal government) and, with his extensive knowledge and experience ‘inside’ the system, sees how to get things done incrementally.
Bill McKibben is a ‘movement’ man, trying to change the world through rhetoric and action: to mobilize enough of a shift in the societal discussion and understanding of climate change to create the support and momentum for addressing climate change with the seriousness and urgency it requires. Drawn into climate activism after decades of journalistic looks at the issue (with inadequate policy attention and action), McKibben draws clear lines that seek to create stark contrasts and either/or situations. (His leading role related to Keystone XL pipeline is a clear example of this. Note, Podesta had some strong things to say about Tar Sands.)
The stark contrast between Podesta and McKibben seems to align with the Presidential candidates:
  • Both substantive, with strong core agreements.
  • Both with substantive knowledge about climate issues and desire to move the United States (and global community) toward stronger action on climate.
  • Podesta the incremental achiever and McKibben the impassioned truth-teller.
  • Podesta the ultimate insider and McKibben the ultimate outsider.
As another analogy, Bill might be the one to listen to on a Sunday morning at Church for motivation and guidance while John might be the boss you work for Monday to get that week’s tasks done.
With that perspective, the question remains: How should a Climate Hawk vote?
Vote here for “Climate Hawks.

In my view, the real contrast will be between whichever Democrat gets the nomination and, almost certainly (though with a brokered convention, who knows?) the Republican nominee. If you care about the climate, you will want to vote for the Democrat, whoever that is. Full disclosure, when I voted in the Climate Hawks primary, I went for “No Endorsement” for this reason. To my mind, this is in line with what Climate Hawks Votes has tended to do; They avoid giving endorsements to candidates without real climate-savvy records. But, the choice is up to you.

Like Greg and for similar reasons, I went “No Endorsement” … But, as per Greg, “the choice is up to you.”
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Tags: 2016 Presidential Election · Bill McKibben · climate change

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