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Climate Change Emerging as Hot Topic in Key Senate Races

The issue of climate change has emerged in nearly every Senate race this election season. Candidates are discussing it, debate moderators are asking about it, and journalists are covering it. Why? Because the vast majority of voters say they are concerned about climate change and want leaders to address it.

That’s good news for lawmakers like Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) who support expanding clean energy and other solutions to reduce global warming pollution.

But it is daunting for the entire slate of Republican candidates who deny the existence of climate change or feign ignorance about climate science. Their polluter friends and wealthy donors don’t want America to tackle this challenge.

The dirty deniers may have money in their coffers. But the climate champions have people on their side. This reality is giving rise to a new maxim: If a lot of people vote, the Koch brothers lose—and Americans win cleaner air and a more stable climate.

Political operatives on both sides have grasped what this means for voter turnout.

In Alaska, for instance, Democratic Party volunteers are boarding bush planes and crossing mountain ranges to encourage more people to vote for Senator Mark Begich. Their outreach is part of a broader Democratic push to win 10 battleground states through one of the most concerted get-out-the-vote efforts on record.

Tea Party supporters, meanwhile, are taking a decidedly different approach.

In North Carolina, the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity has been caught distributing hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms that were invalid and erroneous and would actually get in the way of people casting a ballot.

The group has been tied to similar voter suppression efforts in the past few years in Wisconsin, Virginia, and West Virginia. As the New Republic points out, these efforts go hand-in-hand with new voter identification laws that make it even harder for people to cast a ballot in several states.

Americans for Prosperity is entitled to oppose climate action. After all, disagreeing about how to tackle major issues is part of the democratic process. But interfering with citizens’ ability to vote is not. If the Tea Party want to win, they have to mobilize more people to support their candidates.

That isn’t always easy for them, as the 2012 election demonstrated. Polluters and their allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-polluter, anti-safeguard candidates, yet nearly all their candidates lost.

One of Karl Rove’s Super PACs spent almost $105 million to support or defeat various candidates but was successful in less than 2 percent of its races. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, known for its climate denial and fossil-fuel friendly policies, spent more than $32 million in campaigns but achieved less than 7 percent of its desired outcomes.

Meanwhile, voters favored clean energy and climate champions up and down the ticket. Something similar could happen this year. If people who care about climate change show up—the majority of voters—than the candidates who want to build a safer, more sustainable future will win.

 

 

Great Lakes Need a Senator Who will Act On Climate: Gary Peters

What comes to mind when you think of Michigan? Cars. Cherry pie. College football. Zingerman’s bakery maybe. Surely the Great Lakes. As Michiganders think about which Senate candidate will best protect these elements of the Michigan way of life, they’d be wise to look for someone who is running clean. That means looking to Rep. Gary Peters rather than his opponent Terri Lynn Land.

Why do any of those items have to do with running clean? OK, Zingerman’s and college football only have to do with climate change if you consider them to be helpful distractions from the dire news repots about global warming’s effects. But the other items are more directly connected to our warming planet.

The Great Lakes region is threatened by climate change. Changes in winter ice patterns will alter fish populations. The risk of oxygen-depleted dead zones will increase. The accumulation of mercury in fish will accelerate. Forest fires and drought are likely to increase. And the shifting of seasons could make the state less hospitable for cherry trees (and lovers of cherry pie).

Lucky for Michigan, the state’s history as the center of the American auto industry has put it in a position to be part of the solution to the problem of climate change. The state already employs 76,000 workers in the clean energy economy.

Gary Peters is the only candidate who understands how important our response to climate change and our embrace of clean energy will be for Michigan. Peters has said, “Climate change poses a real threat to our Great Lakes and agricultural producers in Michigan, but it also presents an economic opportunity for us to continue leading the nation in clean energy solutions.” He’s been steady proponent of action, voting for climate action and clean energy investment during his years in Congress.

Land, on the other hand, has waffled on the science. Most recently she claimed that “climate change is absolutely real”. She had previously questioned the “extent” to which humans are causing climate change.

While Land may no longer be outright denying the science, she does deny that we can affordably address the problem. Land has repeated the falsehood that addressing climate change costs jobs.

Land twitter

We know that reducing pollution and growing our economy have gone hand in hand for decades under the Clean Air Act. We know that failure to act is costly – perhaps costing the U.S. economy $150 billion per year. We know that the benefits of acting far outweigh any costs. For example, EPA estimates that its proposal for reducing power plant carbon pollution will provide benefits to every American household of $145 in climate benefits compared to $61 in costs. If you account for health benefits, that grows to $375.

With her opposition to climate action, it’s no surprise that the Koch Brothers are working hard to elect Land. After all, there is one sector of the economy that will suffer if we act on climate: oil billionaires and other dirty energy industry titans will lose market share to clean energy companies as we launch a new clean energy economy. That’s may be bad news to the Koch Brothers and Terri Lynn Land, but that’s good news for Michiganders…and cherry pie!

Bruce Braley: Running Clean in the Heartland

“Shut down the federal EPA.” If you are an Iowan who likes dirty air, dirty water and unlimited quantities of harmful pollution, you are in luck. There is a Senate candidate in your home state who you are going to love: Joni Ernst.

Besides proposing to shut down the EPA, Ernst is Dirty Denier$ who has claimed that “global temperature shifts are a result of long-term cyclical patterns rather than the result of man-made activities.” She believes the Clean Water Act is a “business-damaging” law, though Iowans know it is essential for protecting rivers and streams – you know the exact waterbodies that water Iowa’s crops and feed many in our nation. If Ernst had her way, factory farms would be able to release unlimited quantities of nitrates, which can cause cancer and miscarriages, into Iowa’s water supply.

Luckily for Iowa voters, there is another candidate who is Running Clean. Congressman Bruce Braley has been a strong supporter of clean energy, clean water and action on climate change. Braley understands that “climate disruption is real” and that “Reducing our carbon output is not only necessary for the health of the planet, it’s an opportunity to continue to improve the health of the Iowa economy.” Braley has been especially focused on Iowa’s strong wind energy and biofuel industries. He has sponsored legislation to improve worker training in clean energy jobs, to extend wind energy tax credits and to end Big Oil tax breaks in favor of clean energy investment. Braley also understands how important clean water is to our families and Iowa’s agricultural community.

It’s no surprise who the oil billionaire Koch Brothers are supporting in this contest. Americans for Prosperity, which receives substantial funding from the Kochs, spent $688,805 on pro-Ernst television ads between June and mid-September. Ernst credits the Koch brothers, not Iowans with her career in politics.  Don’t believe us?  Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN_8nWS6uNc

Iowa voters need to know the truth about Joni Ernst. She is an extremist when it comes to environmental protection. Mainstream Iowa voters value the land and water that are essential to their way of life. If they want to see those resources protected, they will remember that Bruce Braley is the only candidate who is Running Clean.

An Endangered Species on the Ballot in Maine

Here at the NRDC Action Fund, we focus primarily on clean energy and climate change. But there are a host of other issues that are important to us too including clean air, clean water and protecting endangered species. Today’s post will highlight a severely endangered species: the Republican candidate who is Running Clean.

The habitat in the state of Maine seems to be perfectly suited for the species, as evidenced by the state’s senior senator, Susan Collins. Collins, who is running for reelection this year, has a long and strong record of support for environmental protection, land conservation and clean energy. Her record is the strongest of any Republican currently serving in Congress.

Collins, who was first elected in 1996, has consistently supported increased energy efficiency, a renewable electricity standard, and tax incentives for clean energy. Currently, Collins is especially focused on developing deepwater offshore wind energy. On clean air, Collins has voted to uphold EPA standards to reduce soot and mercury pollution from power plants (though she did fall short of “Clean Air Hero” status in 2012 due to her championing of an amendment that would have blocked standards designed to reduce mercury pollution from industrial boilers and incinerators.

Collins accepts the science of climate change and supports action, having called it “the most significant environmental challenge facing our planet.” Collins voted for the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act in 2008, has previously called herself a supporter of cap-and-trade and most recently sponsored a “cap and dividend” bill with Sen. Maria Cantwell.

It is true that Collins’ opponent, Shenna Bellows, should also be commended for her strong stances on environmental issues. However, Collins represents the environmental movements best hope to expand the tent of supporters.  It will be difficult to advance meaningful environmental policy ideas if our priorities continue to be partisan.

If Maine voters are looking not just to elect someone who can make a difference for their state’s environment, but also to make a difference nationally in protecting an “endangered species”, they should remember that Susan Collins is running clean.

Mark Udall: Clean Before Clean was Cool

It looks like 2014 may be the year that politicians and pundits finally catch on to what we’ve been saying for years: Running Clean makes smart political sense and candidates from both parties should be supporting clean energy. But in the Colorado Senate race, there’s one candidate who has been supporting clean energy since before it was cool: Senator Mark Udall. Looking at Udall’s record, it’s clear that he is truly committed to clean because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s politically expedient.

Udall has a strong and consistent record on clean energy, climate change and environmental protection that spans more than a decade as a federal legislator. Udall has been a champion for renewable energy, serving as the lead sponsor of House bills to create a national renewable electricity standard, co-chairing the 2004 effort to create a state renewable energy standard (RES) through referendum in Colorado and currently co-chairing the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus. Udall has led efforts to create wilderness in Colorado, to provide tax incentives for clean energy, to improve air and water quality, and to improve national security by reducing the military’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Udall’s opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner, is trying to reap the benefits of voters’ support for clean energy without actually supporting clean energy. Gardner filmed one of his ads in the middle of a wind farm and claimed that he “co-wrote the law to launch our state’s green energy industry.” Unfortunately for Gardner, that law was repealed five years later and wasn’t credited with creating a single clean energy job.

The truth is that Gardner is a #DirtyDenier$.  He has denied the human contribution to climate change, he has voted to deny EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution is a threat to human health, and he has repeatedly voted to protect taxpayer subsidies for oil companies while voting to eliminate them for clean energy pioneers. He’s also voted against just about anything else that might improve the environment from ocean health to clean water to clean air.

With that record, it should come as no surprise that the oil and gas industry are the largest contributors to his campaign’s bank account. In just four years in Congress, Gardner has raised $695,000 from the oil and gas industry and the oil billionaire Koch Brothers are showing their appreciation for his dirty voting record by investing millions in their own advertising campaigns designed to prop up Gardner.

When Colorado voters go to the polls in November, they’d be wise to remember which candidate’s record matches his rhetoric. There’s only one clean candidate in this race, and that’s incumbent senator Mark Udall.

Want more election coverage? Visit www.nrdcactionfund.org for weekly updates on key races featuring environmental champions.