The Coming Political War on Global Warming
May 30, 2014
Anthony Leiserowitz for The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:
In a nationally representative survey we conducted last month, we found that – by nearly a two to one margin – Americans support setting strict limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired plants, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies increases.
However, the country is divided on the issue by political party. A large majority of Democrats support setting such limits, fewer than half of Republicans support it, and Independents are evenly divided.
Greg Sargent in the Washington Post’s Plum Line:
In a speech last night, embattled Senator Kay Hagan blasted GOP challenger Thom Tillis over his climate denialism, arguing that North Carolina “needs a Senator who believes climate change exists.” Hagan added: “Unlike my opponent who flatly denied the existence of climate change, I know the EPA’s ability to responsibly regulate greenhouse gas emissions is key to protecting our environment for future generations.” However, Hagan has also called on the EPA to delay the introduction of pending new rules on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, something Tillis has tried to turn into an issue. The two moves aren’t necessarily contradictory — Hagan says we need a longer public comment period for those who will be impacted, not that there shouldn’t be any new rules — but they do underscore that embattled Senate Dems may find themselves in a tricky political position when Obama rolls out the new rules next week. This is also the latest sign climate change could actually become something of an issue in this year’s campaigns, something environmentalists have long hoped for. Dem Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for Senate in Michigan, has already begun to make an issue of Land’s climate skepticism in Michigan, in part because of climate change’s potential impact on the Great Lakes. Meanwhile, billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer has vowed to spend $100 million highlighting GOP climate denialism, singling out Land, Gardner, and Ernst. A Michigan newspaper is reporting that Land hit Peters today, accusing him of standing with a “billionaire radical from California.” (There’s no mention in the report of whether Land has yet clarified her climate skepticism.) The flip side of this, of course, is that Democrats can use the issue of climate change to draw more attention to the Koch brothers’ efforts to elect Land and other Republicans to the Senate. Indeed, the massive Koch expenditures are another reason climate change may draw more attention this year: As Forbes has noted, Koch industries has “contributed millions to organizations that have studied human-induced global warming with skepticism,” raising questions about “whether their political activities are blatantly self-interested,” given that Koch Industries is “a major carbon emitter, vulnerable to tighter emissions controls.” Dems will likely point to the Koch brothers when the next big climate change-related political issue flares up: those new EPA rules. Even as the Kochs spend tens of millions of dollars to transfer the Senate to Republicans, with the explicit goal of persuading Americans that the answer to their economic problems is fewer government regulations (such as environmental regs), the campaign arm of Senate Republicans is set to use the new EPA rules to put embattled Dems in a tough spot, by casting those rules as the latest in Job Killing Obummer Big Gummint.
Check out the progression of the few climate sentences in Obama’s wide-ranging remarks. He starts by telling the grads that battling global warming requires global cooperation. Then he says climate change is “a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we’re called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food.” OK, that’s worrisome, and that security message sets up Obama’s pitch for trying to reach a United Nations-brokered climate accord at a make-or-break 2015 meeting in Paris: “That’s why, next year, I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet.”Then Obama looks at the U.S. role, and here’s where the speech includes what looks like a subtle pitch for imminent EPA regulations to cut power plants’ carbon emissions: “You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else,” Obama says. – Finally, we get to a thinly veiled jab at the GOP: “We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if so many of our political leaders deny that it is taking place.” Run it backwards: GOP climate skepticism is a roadblock to global cooperation on the “creeping” national security crisis that these graduates will face.
A reporter asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at Thursday morning’s Republican leadership press conference if, given his stated concerns about EPA regulations, “Are there steps you would support to take action against climate change, and do you think that’s a problem?” Boehner’s response didn’t exactly answer the question. “Well, listen. I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change. But I am astute enough to understand that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs,” said Boehner. “That can’t be the prescription for dealing with changes in our climate.”
Which begs the next question – since the implicit assumption in your answer is that climate change is real – what exactly is your solution, Mr. Boehner?