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Hobby Lobby, Climate Change, and the GOP’s Women Problem

More than 200 women brought their children to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to clean up the air pollution that causes climate change. The event was called a “Play-in for Climate Action”—you can’t expect all those kids to stay still for a traditional “sit-in”—and included a press conference with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Around the same time, GOP lawmakers in the House were busy drafting a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing the very thing those mothers want: clean up carbon pollution from power plants so their children have a better future.

Welcome to the latest battle in the Tea Party’s war on women. This conflict isn’t getting as much attention as the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, but it could play a significant role in who wins and loses the midterm elections.

Republican and Democratic candidates have already worked the Hobby Lobby case into stump speeches, fundraising appeals, and attack ads. Yet few people will vote on the Hobby Lobby ruling alone. Most voters cast ballots based on a cluster of issues that matter most to them.

One negative story about a Tea Party position that hurts women would not turn the midterm tide. But these days, the stories are mounting. GOP candidates are alienating women voters on a host of issues, from reproductive health to equal pay to climate change.

When did climate change become a women’s issue? When women made it clear they care deeply about it. Women in battleground states understand (by a margin of 72 percent to 19 percent) that we have a moral obligation to future generations to make the air safer to breathe and the climate more stable. Climate change increases smog and contributes to asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. If we don’t act now, the next generation will pay a steep price, and most women want children to inherit a brighter future, not one plagued by unchecked climate hazards.

And yet nearly every single Republican candidate running for office in the past few years—from the presidential level on down—has ignored, denied, or belittled the threat of climate change.  Right now, GOP leaders are attacking the EPA’s new “Clean Power Plan.” This plan would unleash wind and solar power, boost energy and cost savings, and finally hold power plants accountable for the enormous amounts of carbon pollution they spew into our air.

Blocking this kind of climate action isn’t just bad policy; it’s bad politics.

Women are one of the emerging voting blocs that will matter most in this election, along with Latinos and young people. Many female voters are likely to view Tea Party stance on climate change as yet another position that turns them off.

Republicans can’t afford that. In the 2012 presidential race, women favored the Democratic ticket by 11 percentage points.  Unmarried women voted for President Obama over Governor Romney by 67 percent. Those single women, it turns out, could be the soccer moms of this election—top Democratic strategists are already trying to appeal to them.

Some Republicans may be listening to what women want. Over the past few months, GOP leaders have hedged their climate bets; they have moved from outright denial to modest demurral. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), and Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) have all said they don’t have the scientific background to assess the risks of climate change. This hardly constitutes a bold approach to a matter of national security, but it does suggest some Republicans realize that climate denunciation is a losing position.

Candidates who stand for climate action, meanwhile, can cast themselves as champions of clean air, public health, good jobs, and a brighter future for our children—a set of issues that appeal to many women voters.

 

 

Longer than Pinocchio’s Nose

We all remember the childhood story of Pinocchio and the valuable life lesson it taught us about the importance of telling the truth. I’ve repeated the same story to my own children in hopes that a growing nose may dissuade them from lying.

Unfortunately, the Pinocchio story doesn’t seem to have impacted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Crossroads GPS. In fact, they down right ignored the four Pinocchios given by the Washington Post to a Chamber report which grossly exaggerated carbon emission reductions under the Clean Power Plan.

Now their long noses are poking into the political realm with a new television ad against environmental champion Mark Udall in Colorado. Crossroads GPS just dumped $460,000 into attack ads which site the previously debunked report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I wish I could say I’m surprised. But, it’s the same old tired play from their political playbook. These fossil fuel funded opponents know they don’t have the science or public opinion on their side, so they resort to their standard scare tactics: job loss and higher electricity rates.

The only surprise here is that they are still trying these failed strategies. It didn’t work in the 2012 election cycle.  Despite their best efforts and extremely deep pockets, fossil fuel backers lose much more often than they win. The last election cycle their win rate was a measly 5 percent versus the environmental community and our champions. For an industry highly focused on its return on investment, they don’t have much to show their investors when it comes to the electoral politics of climate change. This goes to show that the big money is not always the smarter money.

Our 2014 battleground state polling, which included Colorado, also shows that more than two-thirds of voters say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants. This includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents, and 87 percent of Democrats.

I’m confident that as voters sniff out the truth this November, it won’t take them long to find these modern day Pinocchios.

 

Climate Spoof is All Too Real

We are standing on the cusp of making unprecedented progress to reduce carbon pollution, especially from old dirty power plants.  In addition to these important new public safeguards proposals, something else is changing – climate change rhetoric.

In just the last few months, the climate deniers have started to shift their public relations strategy.  Instead of trying to shoot holes in the arguments of 97 percent of the scientific community, they’ve chosen to just retreat from the debate by proclaiming their lack of credentials to participate.  Elected leaders, like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), and 2016 Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) are hedging their bets by stating their lack of scientific degree.  This may seem like a cop out to the average observer, but I’m willing to bet they are seeing the same polling numbers I am.

For instance, research out this week from the Yale project on Climate Change Communication titled “The Politics of Global Warming” finds that registered voters are nearly three times as likely to vote for politicians at the federal level who believe that climate change is real and support action to address it. Even registered Republican voters are coming around with 66 percent of liberal/moderate conservatives supporting “strict carbon emission limits on existing coal fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health.”

But one candidate didn’t get the memo, as evidenced by the recent almost five minute video calling climate change “perhaps the greatest deception in the history of mankind.”  Honestly, I thought the commercial, put out by Louisiana State Rep. Lenar Whitney, was a spoof as it was shot mostly in black and white, complete with dramatic music and cute little knocks on the media. Unfortunately, Whitney is very serious with her misstatements, and fundamental misunderstanding of how climate change is putting her constituents in Louisiana at risk.

Since the 1930s, the state of Louisiana has lost 1880 square miles of coastline, which could almost double by the end of the century. At the same time the ocean is rising, the drinking and agricultural water is set for a decline.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about “81 percent of the state’s parishes now face higher risk of water shortages by mid-century as a result of climate change.”  Whitney’s ignorance is putting people at real risk.

She makes the case that people are picking on the poor fossil fuel industry (with their $271 billion in profits) and accurately notes that fossil fuels helped make the U.S. a world leader in the 20th century.  Unfortunately, Whitney forgets the world has progressed (case in point, you’re likely reading this on your mobile device).  What made us a leader a century ago is not what will help us cement our place in the world now and into the future.

According to a Forbes magazine article by Chris Nelder, “Oil, natural gas and coal are set to peak and go into decline within the next decade, and no technology can change that.”  Prices are going to go up.  Whoever makes energy affordable is going to be the winner.

That makes EPA’s new Clean Power Plan, which will dramatically cut carbon emissions from power plants, so critical to our future.  This effort will protect our communities, our air, our water and our health, while spurring the clean energy technology and jobs we need to keep our lights on and our economy going.  Supporting this plan means supporting America’s future.

Meanwhile, Whitney needs to get with the times.  Louisiana can lead or it can be left behind.  At least Rubio and Boehner are smart enough to read the politics and know that they are about to get caught on the wrong side of history.  Whitney has gone all in for the “poor fossil fuel” industry with her dramatically uninformed video and if she is elected, she could lock Louisiana into a dark future of being beholden to dirty energy. The choice is simple, lead now or forever fall behind.

Note to Coal Friendly Democrats: Opposing Carbon Limits Won’t Win You Any Friends

If you only read the newspaper headlines the last two days, you would think the sky is falling because a few Democrats in coal states said they opposed carbon pollution standards.

But like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

Leaders from across the nation have heralded the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Lawmakers, business executives, doctors, Latino organizations, and environmental groups welcome this breakthrough in the effort to protect public health and fight climate change.

More typical responses included Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) who said he supports the EPA’s carbon limits because “climate change is threatening Colorado’s special way of life.” And previously Representative Gary Peters (D-MI), challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land for failing to recognize how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes.

It was only a small group of Democratic candidates for Congress who didn’t get the memo. Sadly, those few outweighed the many in the news coverage.

For example, Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) called the safeguards “disastrous.” And Alison Lundergan Grimes, running for Senate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “When I am in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority.”

But this midterm election was never about West Virginia and Kentucky. These Democrats were never on the side of President Obama’s climate action plan. And these states will not make or break the ultimate control of the Senate next year. The swing states where control will be decided, like New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa and Colorado, have Democratic candidates who support reducing carbon pollution.

Ultimately candidates who run away from public health and climate protections will find themselves isolated from their own voters. And it will make the Senate more vulnerable to Republican takeover.

Clean air and climate champions have the advantage now.

More than two-thirds of voters in 11 battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants, according to a March poll done by Harstad Strategic Research for the NRDC Action Fund.

This week yet another poll confirmed the depth of support. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that 70 percent of Americans want the federal government to limit climate change pollution from power plants, including 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats. The poll asked voters if they would support carbon limits even if electricity costs rise—NRDC analysis shows people’s monthly bills will likely go down—and 51 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 71 percent of Democrats said yes.

This majority support held firm even in coal-heavy states, and yet some Democrats running in these places are still trying to distance themselves from carbon limits. Perhaps they think the coal industry will miraculously embrace them. Or at least stop spending millions of dollars to attack them. But the truth is: the coal industry will never anoint them. The industry has long-since picked its pet candidates, and it won’t switch affections just because someone says a few coal-friendly comments on carbon limits.

Some candidates have noticed the ground shifted in the past few years. Opponents will continue to make the claim that climate action spells trouble at the ballot box. But as extreme weather began destroying people’s homes and livelihoods, voters started to care about climate change.

In 2008, young voters people helped carry President Obama to victory, in part because of his commitment to tackling the climate crisis. In 2012, the Koch brothers and their allies spent more than $270 million in TV ads in the last two months of the campaign alone, yet clean energy and climate candidates won up and down the ticket. The Koch brothers had a 5 percent win rate last cycle, while the environmental community had an almost 100 percent win rate. For an industry highly focused on its return on investment, they don’t have much to show their investors when it comes to the electoral politics of climate change. The big money is not always the smarter money.

This kind of support for climate action can help Democrats carve a path to victory and a Senate majority. But candidates who speak for the coal industry may find themselves on a lonely road.

 

 

Five Ways the New Limits on Carbon Pollution Will Influence the Midterms

The Obama Administration just did the most important thing it could to confront climate change right now: it set limits on carbon pollution coming from power plants. These plants kick out 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the US, yet they get a free pass to foul our atmosphere and destabilize the climate. The Environmental Protection Agency is finally holding these plants accountable.

The new carbon limits will help protect our health, generate clean energy jobs, and shield communities from extreme weather and other hazards of climate change.

They will also give a boost to climate champions running for election this fall. Good climate policy means good politics, and candidates who support cleaning up carbon pollution will benefit at the polls. Here is why.

1. Voters Favor Government Action to Cut Carbon Pollution

President Obama was emboldened to take strong climate action because the American people want it. Poll after poll has confirmed their support, even in red and purple states. In March, the NRDC Action Fund asked Harstad Strategic Research to survey voters in the closest Senate races in the country, including Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The results were resounding: more than two-thirds of voters in 11 battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants. That includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

2. Climate Voters Could Make the Difference in Narrow Senate Races iStock_13548366-Vote badge

Concern about climate change is growing among the general public, but it is even stronger among three significant voting blocs: women, Latinos, and young people. Eight in 10 Latinos, for instance, want President Obama to curb carbon pollution, according to a January poll conducted by Latino Decisions for NRDC. People who care about climate change have proven to be dedicated volunteers (in 2008) and able to sweep climate champions into office (2012). Their enthusiasm could be pivotal in 2014, especially when so many Senate incumbents are running in toss-up races.

3. The Carbon Rules Tap into Reality that All Politics Are Local

The EPA has taken a state-by-state approach to reducing carbon pollution. Every state has its own reduction target and a great deal of flexibility in how to reach it. This keeps the focus squarely on the local level. Candidates can engage voters in a conversation about what climate change is doing to towns and cities, and how low-carbon solutions like energy efficiency and renewable power will benefit their state. Representative Gary Peters, for instance, has challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land for failing to recognize how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes. He could also point to the fact that Michigan’s energy efficiency measures—the cheapest way for states to meet carbon reduction targets—have saved people a net $800 million on electricity bills in the past few years.

4. Carbon Limits Will Create Jobs and Save People Money

Local carbon reduction translates into local job creation. NRDC asked ICF International, an independent firm that analyzes electricity markets for industry and government, to analyze the economic impact of carbon limits. Their study found that reducing carbon pollution by 25 percent could save Americans $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020. It would also create more than 274,000 jobs. Some candidates may claim carbon limits will spell doom for the economy, but even the Chamber of Commerce failed to produce numbers to back them up—the chamber’s recent attempt didn’t even account for jobs that will be created in wind and solar power and energy efficiency efforts.

5. GOP Is Walking Back It’s Rhetoric of Denial

Republican lawmakers may finally have gotten the memo about voter support for climate action. In the past month, several have passed up the opportunity to reject climate change outright. House Majority Leader John Boehner said last week, “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” And when Governor Rick Scott was asked if human activity is causing climate change he said, “I’m not a scientist.” This may be a dodge, but it is not denial. It is a step toward recognizing that if candidates want to reach beyond the Tea Party base, they can’t bet against the majority of voters who care about climate change. That is why a climate denier won’t be able to win the White House in 2016.