Is Obama Rolling Out a Climate Campaign?
September 4, 2012
It’s going to be pretty hard for the GOP to walk back from the unbelievably stupid and regressive position the Romney campaign has taken on climate. As the news from the Arctic gets more shocking by the day, there is a rumor that Romney will try to soften that line in coming weeks, but he’s repeated the “Obama promised to make the seas recede” line now on the campaign trail – and we do have video technology.
The question a lot of folks have been asking is whether Obama will seize this opening to further cast the Republicans as the anti-science party. From here, it looks like we’re not going to see a major change in tone before the election.
What got me thinking about this is the message I got a few days ago from something called “Environmentalists for Obama”:
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.
The contrast between our candidate and theirs couldn’t be any clearer:
The Democratic Platform looks like it has good things to say about climate and science in general, although omitting support for a Cap and Trade policy. (no problem with that, there are other ways to put a price on carbon that might be an easier sell….)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Democrats’ official platform expected to be approved at the party’s national convention on Tuesday calls for an international deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The platform says Democrats will pursue efforts to combat climate change through regulations and market solutions, setting up a continued battle with Republicans who argue such steps could hold back the economy.
“Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers,” states the platform.
“Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically – through regulation and market solutions – is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue,” the platform continues.
Still, the new version’s language on an international agreement is arguably less aggressive than the 2008 platform, which included stronger language making the case for an international deal: “We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia,” it stated.
Domestically, the platform is weaker in calling for climate change legislation that the party’s previous platform in 2008.
It lacks the 2008 version’s explicit call for cap-and-trade, a proposal that collapsed in the Senate in 2010 after House Democrats moved legislation through the lower chamber. Some Democrats say that vote was a factor in Democrats’ losing their House majority in the fall of 2010.
The 2012 platform mirrors the formal National Security Strategy the White House released in 2010 in calling the climate threat “real, urgent and severe.”
Climate change is happening, yet humans have been terribly slow to curb fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases and cause the atmosphere to warm. The United States, caught in political gridlock and lacking consensus on the global-warming threat, has failed to take the lead. The latest reports of the shrinking Arctic ice should shock Congress and the president into more aggressive action, but both branches of government have been timid in the face of one of the great challenges of our age — and one that will haunt future generations.
Within this century, and perhaps in the next 30 or 40 years, the Arctic is projected to become nearly ice-free in the summer. A benefit may be that transpolar shipping routes from Europe to the Pacific will be 40 percent shorter, and choke points like the Suez and Panama canals could lose their significance. But there is also potential for conflict over borders, oil and mineral extraction, and jockeying among military forces.
The Arctic promises to be getting hot in more ways than one.
Obama has been reactive. He has been defined by the various negotiating positions he has taken in his confrontations with Congress. He’s used a more partisan political style to mask his small-bore policy substance. It’s not clear what he is passionate to do if he is elected for another four years.
The Democratic convention is his best chance to offer an elevator speech, to define America’s most pressing challenge and how he plans to address it.
He has three clear options.
First, global warming. President Obama has occasionally said he’d like to do something about climate change if he gets a second term. Given the country’s immediate economic and fiscal problems, this seems obtuse to me. But if this is really where Obama’s passion lies, he should go for it.
He could vow to double down on green energy and green technology. He could revive cap-and-trade legislation that would create incentives for clean innovation. He could propose a tax reform package that would substitute gasoline and energy consumption taxes for a piece of our current income taxes. He could say that his No. 1 international priority will be to get a global warming treaty ratified by all the major nations.
This would be a big, intellectually serious agenda, designed to address a big problem.
Mitt Romney threw down the gauntlet on global warming last week by mocking President Obama’s efforts to fight the effects of fossil-fuel pollution.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said in his acceptance speech for the GOP presidential nomination, drawing a laugh from delegates at the Republican National Convention. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Will Obama strike back this week at the Democratic convention?
In a campaign focused on jobs and the economy, the president has so far been wary of tackling climate change, an issue he addressed head-on in the 2008 campaign. Much has changed since then.
In 2010, his efforts to move a cap-and-trade bill in the Senate failed, and Republicans made “cap-and-trade” a politically toxic catchphrase. The GOP has also waged a political war against Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, branding new clean-air and climate-related rules as “job-killing regulations.”
In the face of those attacks, the White House has doubled down on its push for investment in wind and solar energy, framing those initiatives as job creators. But Obama has said little on the campaign trail about the impact of climate change or his plans to tackle it—even as the country has been gripped by heat waves, drought, wildfires, and destructive storms.
It appears that Obama intends to play it safe on the issue this week. Interviews with campaign staff and a look at the lineup of convention speakers indicate that climate change won’t be a top-tier issue during the convention.
Until now, it has been conventional wisdom in the Obama campaign that talking about climate change will only open the candidate up for attacks from opponents arguing that he supports increased regulations on industry even as the economy struggles to recover from recession. This has been the concern despite a crop of new polls showing that candidates who support action on climate change are more likely to win over independent voters.
Meanwhile, there’s a growing call from Obama’s base to address the issue. The young voters who helped energize the 2008 campaign say they are disappointed that the president no longer seems to care about climate change.
The top Obama energy official to speak this week will be Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is expected to highlight the administration’s efforts to build wind and solar installations on federal land and to pursue an “all of the above” energy policy, including controversial new drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
Notably absent from this week’s lineup are the two Cabinet officials most closely linked to fighting climate change, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who led efforts on climate change in 2010, will speak, but he is expected to focus on foreign policy.
There is a chance that Obama will seize on Romney’s climate jab as an opportunity to criticize Republicans as antiscience. “They have running for national office a candidate who doesn’t believe in climate science,” said Carol Browner, Obama’s former chief adviser on energy and climate policy, who will be on hand in Charlotte this week.
Ultimately, it would seem the electoral politics of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and perhaps Virginia, have relegated climate to a back burner status. Given the overwhelming threat that an anti science agenda would represent, my own perspective is, just win the damn election, and then use the bully pulpit to amp up awareness as we head into what looks like another hellish El Nino amped year of extremes.