Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mixed Messages

(Cross-posted at 1Sky)
Election day 2010 is over, but the fight to address climate change is not--so say many of the bloggers posting since the election Tuesday. We survived the U.S. Senate's inability to pass climate change legislation before the election recess. We survived attacks against the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases (so far). And we can and will survive the loss of the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yesterday's press release (here) noted:
Corporations and their allies in Congress may play politics with our climate, but our climate isn’t playing politics.
The National Audubon Society had a similarly pithy statement in their press release:
Americans may have voted for change in Congress, but no one voted to increase pollution.
One of the bright spots in Tuesday's election was the defeat of Prop 23 in California. By a large margin, voters successfully preserved California's landmark legislation which regulates greenhouse gases and promotes clean energy. It was, as Van Jones said, a broad and diverse coalition that was able to overcome massive money from out-of-state Big Oil interests. His inspiring post from the weekend before the election is a must read.:
What the polls do not show and what few news outlets are covering, is the striking diversity of voices that are demanding clean energy, and rejecting the false notion that protecting the planet and our public health will hurt the economy.

...These groups represent just the tip of iceberg in a movement that includes environmentalists, politicians from both parties, students, public health organizations, big and small businesses, labor groups, consumer groups, senior citizens, and public safety organizations.

...But what we see happening in California gives the green movement a reason for continued optimism. This time we are on the defensive, protecting our climate laws already on the books. The fight has unmasked the opponents of clean energy, as well as vetted their arguments — the same tired talking points they have been using for the last four decades.
The bad news is that the majority in U.S. House of Representatives has been lost by the Democratic party, with many seats lost to Republican climate change denialists. For a round-up of how bad a change in House leadership will be, look here. highlights the worst of the new members here. Climate Science Watch echoes concerns about the changing make-up of House majority leadership next year:
Overall, the influx of denialists is a major loss for the country, as the new House leadership and committee chairmen gear up to make a mockery of the preeminent problem facing our society, and the Senate drifts ever further from taking long-overdue action on climate and energy reform.
A post from the Director of the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund, however, found a silver lining in highlighting Senate races won by climate champions. Likewise, a late-breaking re-election win for Senator Michael Bennett in Colorado may actually be attributable to the Republican opponent's denial of global warming science. Grist has more on the influence of support of climate legislation on incumbent re-election. Contrary to a popular media theme, votes for climate legislation were not connected with tipping an election against the inncumbents:
In fact, Democrats who voted against clean energy were more than three times as likely to lose their seats than those who voted for it.
Joe Romm at Climate Progress demonstrated in detail that the 'climate vote' did not lead to defeat of House members.
It’s worth noting that even in the midst of a Republican tsunami, 80% of the Democrats who supported a carbon cap kept their seats. Perhaps more noteworthy is how many Democrats who opposed a carbon lost their seats.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and NRDC remind us that, even though climate denialists were elected or re-elected, Congressional elections really weren't about climate change at all. And UCS notes that scientists are actually widely respected and listened to by a majority of Americans. So when the inevitable hearings are held next year in a denialist-led congressional committees, activists are right to call on them to speak truth to power in the strongest possible language.

Finally, 1Sky's Liz Butler posted on Huffington Post on Wednesday. Her 'action' item is critical right now, and I'll repost it:
The battle for what will become the "conventional wisdom" in the press about yesterday's election is on-- and we can't allow Big Oil and Dirty Coal to spin this election as a legitimate victory for them. That's why we're asking all our supporters to write their local newspapers and tell them how big polluters bought this election -- and that it can't happen again.
Hear, hear!

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