Climate change didn’t cause the election results and the election didn’t stop climate change
By JP Leous
Tuesday’s election results confirmed expectations: Republicans gained control of the House and picked up seats in the Senate.
Over the days and weeks ahead we’ll be bombarded with analyses, blogs and lots of hot air seeking to explain what caused this shift and what it means looking forward.
One myth that is already making the rounds is that supporting climate legislation, like the landmark American Climate, Energy, and Security Act (ACES) is a political loser.
Little could be farther from the truth. It is true that in a few races deep in coal country this was a top line issue—but the larger trend is far more promising for our economy, environment and health.
Let’s first look at California. Despite a multi-million dollar campaign paid for by Big Oil, Prop 23 (an initiative that sought to block the state’s climate pollution progress) was soundly trounced by voters. This huge win for clean energy and clean air demonstrates the tired and blatantly false choice of “economy or environment” no longer fools voters; Americans now understand that the only path to a strong, sustainable economy is rooted in a strong, healthy environment.
Looking at Congressional races, it’s hard to justify a claim that the climate bill had any meaningful negative impact. More than 80% of ACES supporters in the House will be back next Congress. Take this example from Kentucky – a state with strong coal ties - Rep. John Yarmuth (D) voted for the bill and will return to Congress next year.
Also telling, however, is that the Democratic candidates that voted against ACES lost their seats – less than 40% of Democrats that voted against the climate bill are returning in January.
On the other side of the aisle, five of the eight Republicans that voted for the bill kept their seats, and another won his race for the US Senate. We could go on, but you get the point: while climate change played a role in just a few races, most voters went to the ballot box motivated by a host of other issues.
But we see from this election that the climate change denial machine is alive and growing, being fed and by the deep pockets of Big Oil and King Coal. Republican and Tea Party candidates ran on a near-universal anti-science, anti-health, anti-solutions platform; making our work to protect our environment from climate change even more important.
There is hope. We’ve beat back this machine and its friends in Congress before. We beat Sen. Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act. We beat back Prop 23. And we’ll need to continue to be vigilant and nimble in order stay out in front of the well-funded opponents of clean air and climate solutions.
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Susitna Glacier in Alaska - photo courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center