Climate Comes of Age on Campaign Trail

October 26, 2018

30 years late, and only in the wake of horrendous climate-fueled disasters, but we’ll take it.

New York Times:

Conventional political wisdom says you don’t talk about climate change on the campaign trail.

That’s mostly because it’s a deeply polarizing issue. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 72 percent of registered voters supporting Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections said climate change was a “very big” problem, compared with 11 percent of Republican voters.

That divide has led many candidates and the groups that support them, even those who favor addressing planet-warming emissions, to struggle with discussing the issue during election campaigns.

But that’s starting to change. Across the country, there’s been a small explosion of political ads about global warming.

In Nevada, the Democratic candidate for governor, Steve Sisolak, pledged in an ad to uphold the Paris Agreement. In Illinois, a Democratic candidate for the House, Sean Casten, assailed President Trump for calling climate change a “hoax.” And more than two dozen other candidates in tight races have released ads highlighting their views on climate change.

Environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters also are spending millions of dollars on ads backing candidates who favor policies to address rising emissions.

“At the national level, it’s very clear it’s not going to be the issue that brings people to the polls,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. But, he said, “It is an issue that is at least being talked about in some races, and that is new.”

For the most part, political analysts say, climate ads in this campaign involve one candidate attacking the global warming stance of another, or, by proxy, attacking the climate position of President Trump.

Case in point: this League of Conservation Voters ad assailing Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, as “radically opposed” to fighting climate change. The ad superimposes the wildfires that raged through California this year with Mr. Rohrabacher declaration that “global warming is a fraud.” (above)

Some candidates prefer to talk about the potential economic benefits of addressing climate change, even if they don’t always use the phrase. The incumbent governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, for example, describes the state’s offshore wind farm and plans for solar developmentas part of a drive for “lower energy costs” and a “cleaner environment.”

And in a few places, there’s bipartisan appeal. It’s a small category, for now.

Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican whose district is already seeing the effects of sea level rise, is one of the rare G.O.P. candidates who mention climate change.


Democratic candidates are no longer afraid of embracing the war on coal and oil.

At least six Democrats running for governor this year have embraced a goal of moving the U.S. completely to clean energy in coming decades, as have potential presidential contenders like Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

It’s a sweeping shift in energy policy, going well beyond the Obama administration’s regulations of fossil fuels — and yet another sign of the growing power of liberal ideas in the Democratic Party even as President Donald Trump tries to push the nation to the right.

The candidates’ plans leave many details unfilled, and they disagree on questions such as whether clean energy should include nuclear power and natural gas. The strategy could also prove risky for Democrats competing in energy-producing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

But climate change activists say it’s encouraging to see so many candidates championing a bold approach to solving one of the world’s biggest problems.

“When lots of candidates in widely different political environments are all running on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy, it means that voters are telling them they want leaders who will help solve the climate crisis,” former Vice President Al Gore told POLITICO. “So these candidates have concluded correctly that acting on the climate crisis is a no-brainer.”

Climate change allows Democrats to draw a sharp contrast with Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed warnings from scientists about the threat of already-rising seas and extreme weather. And where climate policies based on cap-and-trade programs or carbon taxes may trigger voters’ fears of higher energy prices, Democrats can emphasize the jobs they say would come from building millions of new wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles.

“Clean energy and clean jobs are good for the planet, and they’re just good business,” Illinois Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker tweeted last year.

Environmentalists say part of the appeal is the goal’s aspirational nature, and that it allows Democrats to tout existing success stories from the growth of renewable energy businesses, even in conservative parts of the country. The goal also meshes with pledges by dozens of major U.S. companies to switch to 100 percent renewable energy.

“I think the 100 percent metric is a good target setting and then you can figure out how you get there — each part of the country would probably have to get there a little different way,” said Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director of government affairs at NRDC Action Fund. “That type of vision is one that can have pretty broad support from sea to shining sea and all the places in the middle.”

Los Angeles Times:

Worries about increasingly toxic algae blooms have consumed residents this election season. Putrid water that scientists say is aggravated by a warming climate has killed sea life, sickened residents, battered tourism – and reshaped politics up and down the state’s Atlantic coastline.

“It is getting worse,” said Betty Hardwick, 86, who was working the front desk of the Stuart Heritage Museum on a recent hot October afternoon. She has lived here since 1950.

“It’s definitely warmer, and that is causing this to stay around so long,” Hardwick said of the toxic water. “We need to do something.”

For years, conventional wisdom among political strategists has labeled climate change as a politically weak issue, a concern of environmental activists but not the mass of voters.

That’s still the case in many areas. But in districts around the country where warming is exacerbating natural disasters and disrupting regional economies, the anxiety of voters like Hardwick has started to shift how candidates campaign.

The change is clearest in Florida, a state battered by hurricanes, threatened by rising tides and, this year, wrapped in toxic algae more dangerous than even old-timers can recall. The blooms intensified and converged with an extreme bout of red tide, a toxic scourge familiar to Gulf Coast Floridians but one that almost never spreads all the way to the Atlantic shore.

The increased focus on climate has complicated the reelection bids of numerous Republicans. They’ve found that too close an alignment with a White House and congressional leadership determined to resist action on climate can be toxic.

“We cannot afford a congressperson who supports a climate change denialist at the head of the [Environmental Protection Agency],” said Lauren Baer, the Democrat running in the state’s 18th Congressional District, which stretches north from Palm Beach along the Atlantic coast.

Her Republican opponent, first-term Rep. Brian Mast, has responded not by challenging climate science, as his party’s leadership does, but embracing it.

He notes that he’s joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, racked up endorsements from local clean water groups and has even sided with the League of Conservation Voters, a leading environmental political group that endorsed Baer, on five out of the six climate votes they tracked this session of Congress.

Around the country, several other Republicans have at least rhetorically stepped away from their party’s opposition to action on climate change.

In California, Rep. Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach, in a tight race with a 4% lifetime voting score from the conservation league, has tried to reposition herself as a climate crusader. In August, she joined colleagues in warning that the state’s forest fires will get worse if global warming is not confronted.

Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen, a longtime climate change skeptic whose seat is also threatened, had a similar conversion. He joined the Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus earlier this year.

In Illinois, veteran Republican Rep. Peter Roskam did the same. He’s in a very close race in the Chicago suburbs against a Democrat who has run an ad specifically targeting Roskam’s record on global warming.

9 Responses to “Climate Comes of Age on Campaign Trail”

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    Climate change finally on national political agenda – after 30 years.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    The long and winding road…

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Hot water

    The vast majority of humans reside on solid ground, rather than water. So it’s understandable that people tend to focus on how much temperatures are rising across the Earth’s land masses.

    However, more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface is water. New analysis published this week by Carbon Brief shows that “ocean heat content” (OHC) set a new record in the first half of 2018, with more warmth in the oceans than at any time since OHC records began in 1940.

    As the chart above shows, the rise in OHC since 1990 has been as steep as it’s been steady. This is in contrast to the rise in land temperatures, which has been far more variable across the same period.

    As Zeke Hausfather, Carbon Brief’s US analyst, explains in his latest quarterly “state of the climate” report: “OCH shows little evidence of the slowdown in warming in the mid-2000s, seen in surface temperature records. It also shows a distinct acceleration after 1991, matching the increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions over the past few decades.”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      And the fish will be happy to know that the warmer water will take up CO2 (as carbonic acid) at a slower rate. Oh joy.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Not in Florida with Little Marco. Remember those F-22 jets at Tyndall AFB that got “damaged” (maybe they said)? Looks like duct tape and a reduced speed limit won’t cut it—-they have been declared destroyed and the price tag is $6 BILLION and pushing $2 billion to rebuild the base. Rubio is still living in the dark ages of climate change and says “do it”. No matter that future CAT 6’s and 7’s will do it all again, wasting the country’s money in FL is all Rubio wants.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Here’s hoping they can put off replacing those old meat-controlled jets until even those Congressional pork-scammers acknowledge they’re not cost-effective.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    PS Has anyone noticed that the comment count on Crock seems to have fallen off as we get closer to election day? This post has drawn no comments beyond Sir Chucky’s usual.

    Are we all hiding under the bed clutching our teddy bears, holding our blankies, and sucking our thumbs in fear of the blue wave NOT materializing? I am—-and the wait is killing me! (But I HAVE taken my Remington 870 Tactical 12 GA under there also, and that helps a bit).

    The volume of campaign ads on TV is reaching a crescendo in the NO VA area—-often dueling ads in close sequence saying “Vote for X, Don’t vote for X” so that you can’t tell who is who. And NONE of them speak of climate change except Kaine, who HAS mentioned briefly that the Norfolk naval base and VA shore are under threat from SLR.

    The worst ad of all is a new one paid for by the national Repugnants saying “Don’t vote for ANY Democrat (because of a number of vomit-inducing lies). The Democrats have come out with a response that says “Don’t vote for any Repugnant” that speaks more to the truth of why but is still disturbing in that it even needed to be done.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      I’ve noticed that the number of posts to Crock have been higher lately, as have some of my Culture War forums, and there’s only so much whine time people have to spend.

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