Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Climate Change May Give Democrats the Edge in the 2016 Federal Election

There are indications that climate change is finally emerging as a critical election issue and this could help the Dems and sink the GOP's presidential ambitions. Almost all of the candidates who participated in the first Democratic Presidential debate have plans to address the climate crisis.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that this may be the most important election in American history. We are rapidly running out of time to get a handle on the climate issue. If we are to succeed in staving off the worst impacts of climate change, we must act and we must act soon.

To keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, we have to slash carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2050. To have a shot at reaching this goal, we must begin to seriously reign in CO2 by 2020. Failure to do so could push us past disastrous tipping points.

In the Democratic leadership debate on October 13th, climate change was a high priority issue for all but one of the contenders for the presidential nomination. In order of the strength of their climate action plans here are the six candidates (click on the links below to get a brief summary of the candidates climate and environment positions):

Bold climate action from the next US President is crucial. As the world’s largest economy and the leading voice in the international community, American leadership on climate change is essential.

In an article titled “Climate Change Issues May Decide the 2016 US Election,” NextGen makes the case for climate action and asks whether the public will seize the opportunity to vote for a president that is prepared to act boldly to accelerate the transition to clean energy:

“[C]lean energy sources will create jobs, save lives by reducing pollution, and drive the kind of economic growth that benefits all Americans. The global race for climate solutions and clean energy is already underway. The question for the public is whether the United States will seize this opportunity to lead, or be left behind as other nations reap the economic benefits.”

Climate action is also an important issue for Democrats who want to benefit from the deep pockets of NextGen founder Tom Steyer. He spent $74 million on political races in 2014 and to earn his support in 2016, candidates must pledge to generate half of the nation’s electricity from clean sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050 (so far only O’Malley meets these criteria).

It is easy to be cynical. Many have hoped that American voters would wake up to the urgency of climate change in previous elections only to be disappointed. In the 2012 campaign, climate change was a non-issue, it was also a no-show in the 2014 midterms. However, it is not unrealistic to believe that climate change may finally emerge as an election issue in 2016. This view is buoyed by a New York Times Stanford University poll indicating that two-thirds of voters would support a candidate who pledges policy action on climate change.

“Whether or not candidates make this commitment will be a critical factor for Americans who are deciding what candidates to support at polls,” wrote Steyer.

Climate change is also an important wedge issue for the Democrats, as it exposes Republican policy vulnerability. If climate change emerges as an issue for Republican voters, the GOP’s hopes to win the white house are in serious jeopardy as voters may simply stay away or vote for the Democratic candidate.

The Papal Encyclical has deprived Republicans of their last vestige of legitimacy and they are now are at odds with voters on climate change and clean energy. None of the Republican contenders has unveiled a renewable energy strategy and none of them have suggested that we should abandon fossil fuels.

This is a more serious ballot box issue than it has been in the past. It is widely known that the majority of Democratic supporters accepts anthropogenic climate change and they believe that government has a responsibility to do something about it. This view is becoming increasingly prevalent even among Republican voters. The majority of Republicans now say that they support climate action. Some of the Republican presidential contenders have already realized that denial is political suicide.

“This will be a make-or-break presidency as far as our ability to avert a climate change catastrophe,” says Michael Mann, meteorology professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

The choice is clear, if America votes for a Democrat, (other than Jim Webb) we have a chance of staving off the worst impacts of climate change. If America votes for a Republican, the chances of reigning in climate change falls dramatically.

Republicans have painted themselves into a corner as none of their candidates have advanced a climate plan to slow warming. If climate change finally emerges as a pivotal election issue, the Democrats are poised to maintain their hold on the most powerful office in the world.

Source: Global Warming is Real

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