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Not All Rich Men Love Climate Change Denial

Not All Rich Men Love Climate Change Denial

We’re already familiar with conservatives like the Koch brothers pouring millions into campaigns to deny climate change and bankroll politicians to ignore this pressing issue, but what if there was someone who was willing to do the opposite of that – a billionaire who uses his fortune and clout to run a Super PAC that promotes environmental policy and curbing emissions?

Meet Tom Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire who hopes to make climate change reform the United States government’s top priority. Though we tend to think of the extremely wealthy as destructive and anti-progressive, Steyer is looking to spend $100 million on elections this year to help climate-conscious politicians gain control of the government.

$100 million seems like a lot, but as Steyer points out to the New York Times, “that would be a really cheap price to answer the generational challenge of the world.” Steyer intends to put up $50 million of his own money, and hopes other liberal-leaning rich friends and philanthropists will match the amount.

While many of these donors have preferred philanthropy to politics in the past, seeing the inaction by politicians on both sides of the aisle to address the issue of climate change has motivated them to throw their money at elections instead. The goal is to put individuals who care about the environment into positions of power, while unseating those who do not.

Two of the races Steyer intends to target are:

  • Senator of Iowa – Bruce Braley, a Democrat running for the seat, has a history of aggressively trying to curb climate change. If Braley is elected, Steyer expects that he will propose and support legislation that actually makes a difference.
  • Governor of Florida – Rick Scott, the current governor, refutes climate change science, and as a result is far too lenient on environmental policies. Replacing Scott with someone who acknowledges the human influence could tighten the state’s regulations on pollution.

Though his immediate goals primarily involve winning seats for eco-conscious Democrats at high levels at the cost of Republicans, Steyer has demonstrated that he is not afraid to go after Democrats who are an obstacle to climate change reform. His group also hopes to unseat Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, who has a strong allegiance to big oil companies. Ultimately, the urgency of the issue trumps political affiliation.

Fellow philanthropist Wendy Abrams admits that Steyer influenced her to stop donating money to her own Democratic friends in Congress who do little to nothing to tackle global warming. “The party is afraid to fight the fight because they’re afraid to lose more conservative Democratic votes,” she said.

Lest you doubt Steyer’s commitment to protecting the environment, he wrote an excellent article on the need to block the Keystone pipeline that Care2 published last year. Previously, Tom Steyer was one of 40 billionaires who pledged to donate his fortune to charitable organizations rather than passing it down to relatives in the form of an inheritance. “We relish the opportunity to do our part and leave our collective campsite cleaner and better tended than we found it,” Steyer said in a joint statement with his wife, Kat Taylor.

Nevertheless, Steyer has faced some criticism even from liberals for his plan. Although it is refreshing to see large campaign donations going toward causes that would literally improve the welfare of everyone on the planet, it’s still yet another example of a handful of Americans being able to influence elections in a way most Americans never could… which is one of the main reasons we’ve found ourselves on the brink of environmental disaster in the first place.

As tempted as I am to denounce all Super PACs, this pro-environment one is certainly necessary at the moment. It’s going to take time to defeat Citizens United, and in this particular case, that’s time the earth doesn’t have to waste. In the meantime, we’ll have to be thankful that there are some billionaires like Steyer who consider climate change even more important than padding their own bank accounts and are willing to fight fire with fire.

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Photo Credit: Helloaloe

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120 comments

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2:16AM PST on Feb 13, 2015

thanks for sharing :)

2:55AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

thanks

11:11PM PST on Mar 1, 2014

Thanks

6:17AM PST on Feb 26, 2014

thank you for sharing

2:44AM PST on Feb 26, 2014

Thanks for the post

6:40PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

The Oil industry will NEVER let it be ready unless THEY are controlling it!!! They aren’t going to give up their monopoly on whatever it is that replaces oil. The reasin they hate renewables is because they cant control them and they dodnt make near enough money. So waiting till “its time” means NEVER!!!

5:17PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

Brian f.,
I will cede every point but created jobs. Yes, jobs in new areas will be created, but how many others will be lost. The environment would be cleaner, and less money would flow to the OPEC countries. But, it is unlikely yo occur without some cost. The technology will come. Let us not push forward too quickly, before it is ready.

4:42PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

Dan b I don't think we will suffer under a clean renewable energy transition. In India, farmers are using solar pumps to pump water, saving billions of dollars on deisel, and cleaning the environment If farmers use electric tractors, they can save fuel cost. If farmers put solar power on their houses, they save utility bills. Wind turbines on farms produce revenue for farmers, and clean energy. Even if you disagree that humans are causing GW by our use of dirty fossil fuels, clean renewable energy creates jobs, cleans our air and water, and provides jobs, and money for farmers and other people. If we drive electric cars, we don't pollute our air, and we can power our cars with clean renewable solar, wind, or geothermal power, and not have to import dirty oil, from other countries. So moving into clean renewable energy creates jobs, cleans our environment, and provides energy independence.

2:13PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

Brian F.,
If you wish to promote transition away from coal and oil due to pollution, then argue according. I do not support these, nor the companies that engage in these activities (I have gone up against them more than once). Your listing of environmental concerns is real, and worth the right. However, trying to eliminate these practices due to global warming is a much harder sell. Many people (myself included) are not willing to sacrifice our economy for a slight warming trend. Farmers are even less likely, as they stand to prosper the most from the increases in CO2, rainfall, and temperatures.
Saying that those who disagree with your opinion of global warming somehow support the oil and gas industry is ludicrous. That is akin to saying those who oppose war wish to be enslaved.

1:24PM PST on Feb 25, 2014

Dan b Drilling for oil or natural gas is unacceptable. Oil spills like the Gulf oil spill devaste our environment Natural gas fracking poisons our water pollutes our air, and causes earthquakes Our use of dirty fossil fuels is destroying our environment, and is unsustainable. We must transition now to electric cars, solar, wind, and geothermal power. Solar must be decentralized, and put on every home, business, warehouse, vacant lot, brownfield, or former landfill. The old paradigm, of the dirty fossil fuel power plant must change, and be replaced by clean renewable energy. You want us to continue to use dirty oil, coal, and natural gas, even as they are polluting and destroying the planet. It's people like you, who keep us from advancing from our use of dirty fossil fuels, and moving into clean renewable energy.

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