Russ Feingold Announces Senate Run

It may seem like the big news of the 2016 election season is that a new denier is entering the presidential race or quasi-campaigning every week. From Jeb Bush to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio, or Fiorina to Huckabee and Carson, you’ve got deniers for every day of the week. But last week, we got some different and very positive news about the upcoming campaign season: Former Wisconsin Senator—and environmental champion—Russ Feingold has announced that he’s running for a rematch against Dirty Denier Ron Johnson, who unseated him five years ago.

Johnson Is A Dirty Denier and Dirty Air Villain

ron johnson

Senator Ron Johnson is a true denier. He has a 100% record of voting against clean air in the WhoVotesDirty.com database, earning him the Dirty Air Villain title, and a mere 7% lifetime score on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard. Johnson has consistently voted against action on climate change, against clean energy and in favor of the Big Polluter Agenda.

Johnson does not accept the science of climate change. His Senate website states, “Man-made global warming remains unsettled science,” despite the fact that 97% of scientists agree that recent warming is very likely due to human activities. Johnson is so far outside the mainstream that he’s even claimed sunspots are the cause of global warming.

Feingold an Environmental Champion

By comparison, Feingold earned a 95% LCV score for his eighteen years in the Senate. Feingold consistently voted in favor of environmental protection, was a leader of the opposition to Arctic drilling and voted against the Bush-Cheney energy bill.

As a Great Lakes senator, Feingold showed particular leadership of water issues. Year after year, Feingold sponsored the Clean Water Restoration Act, to preserve Clean Water Act protections for millions of miles and acres of streams and wetlands. It’s the same issue that President Obama addressed with a new Clean Water Rule just this week and that the Senate will likely try to kill soon. So far, Johnson hasn’t added his name as a cosponsor, but he’s expressed concerns about the rule and this may soon provide a stark policy contrast between the two Wisconsin politicians.

Feingold on Climate Change

When it comes to climate change, there’s a stark contrast as well. Feingold accepts the science and has consistently voted and spoken out for action.

Feingold has said “Climate change is real and we need to address it.” In 2003, Feingold sponsored so-called “4P” legislation, which would have used the Clean Air Act to reduce four pollutants at coal-fired power plants, including carbon. When the Senate was working on a comprehensive climate plan in 2009, Feingold was part of a group working constructively to ensure that states like Wisconsin—which are heavily dependent on energy-intensive manufacturing and coal-fired electric power—would reap the benefits of climate action. Feingold opposed efforts like those from Senator Lisa Murkowski that would have undone EPA’s endangerment finding and stopped efforts to address carbon pollution, saying “the Murkowski resolution would have stalled our march toward energy independence through more efficient vehicles, alternative fuels and renewable energy, all of which can spur new American jobs.”

With Wisconsin predicted to suffer a wide range of climate impacts on its agriculture and forestry industries, on its coastal and urban communities, and on human health for residents, the state needs a leader who will work to act on climate.

Wisconsin-Style Leadership

Feingold understands that he’s following in the footsteps of one of the greatest environmentalists in American history. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, was from Wisconsin. On April 21, 2010, Feingold took to the Senate floor to celebrate Nelson and the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. He spoke of carrying forward Nelson’s legacy in addressing climate change, the challenge that “looms largest of all.” Feingold said:

If we do this right, we have an opportunity to pass legislation that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create energy jobs here in America. We can help American businesses gain a competitive advantage developing new renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

The desire to protect our air, our water, and our planet will bring people together tomorrow, all around the world. They will talk about global issues we face and the local environmental issues in their communities that they want to address. They will organize, mobilize, and galvanize new momentum for change.

The U.S. Senate needs leadership on climate change. It needs people to come together. Russ Feingold understands that reality.

Three New Deniers Want to Be President

The 2016 presidential race is officially heating up with three new Dirty Deniers entering the contest last week. While there are differences among the three — Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson — on policy and style, they each hold views on climate change and clean energy that make them ill-prepared to win or govern from the White House.

Let’s take a look these three new contenders’ views on climate change and clean energy.

Mike Huckabee

On climate change, the views of Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, have shifted over time. And not in a good way. Back in 2007, Huckabee addressed an audience in New Hampshire and supported “cap and trade of carbon emissions,” citing “our responsibility to fix” climate change.

By 2010, Huckabee was walking back his previous support for cap and trade, saying he’d only ever supported “voluntary cap and trade” and that mandatory programs were a “bad idea.” Now, Huckabee says the science on climate change has proved to be inaccurate while making inaccurate statements of his own, claiming, for example, that Icelandic volcanoes are a greater carbon pollution problem than fossil fuels.

Huckabee has gone so far as to belittle concern about climate change, glibly quipping that the consequences amount to nothing worse than a “sunburn.”

Huckabee’s traction with evangelical Christians is one of his strongest assets, which makes his stance on climate change all the more disappointing. When Huckabee spoke out in support of climate change in 2007, he made the moral argument for action. I’ve written before about what it means to be a climate Christian, and in Mike Huckabee we have someone who may be missing the messages from both the Creator and the voters.

Carly Fiorina

California businesswoman Carly Fiorina deserves a bit of credit. As recently as February she stated, “There is a lot of consensus among the scientists that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it.” That’s more than we can say for many of her peers in the Republican field.

However, while Fiorina may not deny the science, she is still denying the need to act. At the same event in February, Fiorina opposed regulation and said that no one nation could address climate change on its own. Fiorina’s cowardly opposition to government action is nothing new. When she ran against climate change champion Barbara Boxer for Senate in 2010, this blog wrote that:

Fiorina has gained notoriety for flippantly calling global warming “the weather” in a campaign ad, and for doubting the overwhelming science of global warming. Not surprisingly, Fiorina also opposes legislation like the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES). Passed by the U.S. House in 2009, ACES was the first comprehensive clean energy and climate bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. On her website, Fiorina cites a biased report from the Heritage Foundation claiming that climate legislation will “cost American families $2,872 every year.” Furthermore, she claims that a climate bill “will punish manufacturers and small-business owners and put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage with nations like China and India.” She has even sided with dirty Texas oil companies to favor passing Proposition 23, which would overturn California’s climate law – the strongest such law in the nation.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last five years. Fiorina is still denouncing the Golden State’s leadership on climate change, despite California’s huge job growth while it has been working to reduce carbon pollution. With California’s clean energy jobs growing ten times as quickly as jobs in the overall economic sector, action on climate change is actually driving the economy forward, not holding it back. If Fiorina’s strength is supposed to be her business acumen, it looks like she still has a lot to learn about what will power our country’s future economic growth.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, can’t claim that he’s not a scientist. But despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are contributing, Carson says, “We may be warming. We may be cooling.” He says we should “find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources.” When the world’s energy authorities tell us we need to triple our investment in clean energy innovation, that’s not even close to being good enough.

Ill-Suited for the White House

Every corner of our country and globe will feel the effects of climate change— heat waves, heavy downpours, sea level rise, increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, drought, declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities — the list goes on and on.

We know voters are more concerned than these candidates: two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Republicans surveyed, are more likely to vote for a candidate who says human-induced global warming is happening.

Climate change is no laughing matter, but let’s hope that by this time next year the American electorate will have laughed off the candidacies of anyone with who denies the science or the need to act in the face of a global crisis. America needs a president who will act decisively to address climate change. Any candidate who believes otherwise should head home.

NRDC Action Fund Launches Ad Marking Mitch McConnell’s First 100 Days, Unveils Website Showing Congressional Villains and Heroes on Climate & Clean Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Melissa Harrison, mharrison@nrdc.org, 202-513-6278, or Elizabeth Heyd, eheyd@nrdc.org, 202-289-2424

WASHINGTON (April 15, 2015) – As Mitch McConnell marks his first 100 days as Senate majority leader, the NRDC Action Fund today unleashed an ad blasting him for standing with “dirty polluters,” and introduced a first-of-its-kind website enabling users to track dirty votes by members of Congress and campaign contributions from polluting industries.

The five figure “100 Days of McConnell”  ad, running on social media channels, hits the Kentucky Republican for leading a GOP agenda to try to dismantle the first-ever carbon pollution limits on power plants. These standards, the ad’s narrator says, “will save as many as 6,000 lives per year, slow climate change, and are supported by most voters.”

At the same time, the WhoVotesDirty website, www.whovotesdirty.com, enables users to identify the “villains” throughout Congress who vote against clean air and climate action, and the “heroes” who vote to protect communities and health. The website, which encourages users to hold lawmakers accountable through social media, also tracks contributions from dirty energy interests.

“Senator McConnell’s first 100 days of protecting polluters’ interests certainly do not bode well for his next 100 days. The question is: Where will McConnell’s fellow senators stand—with the polluters or with families who want to protect their children and their health?” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the NRDC Action Fund. “We’re shining a spotlight on those who vote against the best interests of their constituents, who many times are in the dark about what’s happening in Washington. The time has come to make sure that—unlike Las Vegas—what happens on Capitol Hill doesn’t just stay there.

“Clean air and climate protections are vital to protecting our children’s health and ensuring a brighter future for all generations,” Taylor-Miesle added. “And our new tracking system will arm constituents with an easy to use tool to hold their members accountable for voting against those life-saving interests, and instead to protect dirty energy and dirty air.”

The redesigned website uses sophisticated data from the government watchdog group Sunlight Foundation and cutting-edge data-gathering technology to provide real-time information to the public and others revealing how members of Congress are voting on clean air and climate action measures, as well as contributions they receive from polluters from the oil & gas, electric utility and coal mining sectors. The website encourages users to hold members of Congress accountable by sharing the information through social media channels.

“Who Votes Dirty is a compelling use of the legislative and campaign finance information made available through our free and open data offerings,” said Amy Ngai, the Partnerships and Training Director at the Sunlight Foundation. “By using Sunlight Application Programing Interfaces (APIs), the tool takes advantage of real-time data such as bill status and voting records to provide a dynamic and interactive interface for users.”

The enhanced www.whovotesdirty.com is currently tracking 49 pieces of climate and clean air legislation and/or amendments in Congress since September 2011. Based on these votes, the website shows that 293 members of Congress are dirty air villains.  This includes 50 Senators and 243 House members.

What makes a member of Congress a hero or villain? NRDC Action Fund policy experts identify the votes that have the greatest impact or potential to impact clean air and climate policy. Members who vote against clean air 80 percent or more of the time are considered “Dirty Air Villains.” Those who vote to strengthen protections 80 percent or more of the time are considered “Clean Air Heroes.” All other members have no assigned status.

Of the 243 Dirty Air Villains in the House 241 are Republicans and two are Democrats. In the Senate, 49 Republicans are Dirty Air Villains, and one Democrat is a Dirty Air Villain.

The upgraded WhoVotesDirty website utilizes several software tools developed by the Sunlight Foundation. It is refreshed daily and pulls voting records and polluter contributions for every member of Congress. It allows a user to simply input his/her zip code to quickly identify if his/her members of Congress are “Dirty Air Villains” or “Clean Air Heroes.”

Users can also utilize the name search function to find specific lawmakers. And, through additional functionality, users can take the data and tweet directly on Twitter to the member’s official twitter account.

The NRDC Action Fund will promote the site on a regular basis and key votes on climate and clean air legislation. Promotion will include paid online advertising, aggressive social media outreach and earned media channels with reporters and bloggers throughout the United States.

Listen to audio recording of the press conference: http://bit.ly/1OCpRGB

The WhoVotesDirty website can be viewed here: www.whovotesdirty.com

To view the McConnell 100 Days ad, please click here: http://bit.ly/1GHYYjl

The text of the ad follows:

“Mitch McConnell spent his first one hundred days as Senate leader trying to dismantle carbon pollution standards.

“Standards that will save as many as 6,000 lives per year, slow climate change, and are supported by most voters.

“He’s taken more than three million dollars from dirty polluters and has no plan to protect the environment or public health.

“Will your senators stand with Mitch McConnell and dirty polluters, or with families who want to protect their children’s health and future?

“Paid for by the NRDC Action Fund.”

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The NRDC Action Fund’s mission is to grow the environmental majority across America to achieve the passage of legislation that jump-starts the clean energy economy, reduces pollution, and sustains vibrant communities for all Americans. Now is the time for leadership and action from our elected officials — our current goal is a comprehensive clean energy policy that will repower our economy and fuel our future. www.nrdcactionfund.org

The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, the NRDC Action Fund engages in various advocacy and political activities for which the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, faces certain legal limitations or restrictions. News and information released by the NRDC Action Fund therefore needs to be identified as from the NRDC Action Fund. Use of the label “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect; the only correct title is the “NRDC Action Fund.” In other words, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the NRDC Action Fund cannot be used interchangeably. Also, please note that the word “National” does not appear in Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

 

Secretary Clinton’s Record

When it comes to what the American people are looking for in their next President, there is fairly broad consensus on topics of clean air, clean water, and being a good steward of our environment. For months now, we’ve been saying that a climate change denier will have a hard time winning the White House in 2016. Multiple public polls back this up. In one such poll, 53 percent of Republican voters and 87 percent of Democratic voters support the EPA’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants. Key voting blocs of Independent women (62 percent) and Republican women (59 percent) want the EPA to rein in the pollution that causes climate change and makes air dirtier and more dangerous to breathe.

With her announcement today that she is formally running for President, Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who’s entered the race that isn’t a climate denier. But it’s not going to be enough to simply acknowledge that climate change is real and happening. The country needs bold leadership and willingness to fight the Big Polluter Agenda and its seemingly unlimited funding.

Secretary Clinton’s campaign is brand new and we haven’t yet heard from her in detail her plans to act on climate. What we can do is look to her record:

  • She testified before Congress multiple times about a US commitment to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and reducing carbon pollution. She’s cited climate change as a threat to human security, food security, and national security.
  • From her first trip to China as Secretary of State, she placed a heavy focus on getting China to agree to deal on global warming (which later happened in 2014). In many of her overseas trips she stressed the importance of energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy.
  • Secretary Clinton ranked climate change 2nd on her list of 21st century challenges that countries are facing. She encouraged a new way of tackling challenges and cited an international climate coalition (called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition) as an example of an innovative approach.
  • As a Senator, Clinton had an 87% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters (until it got reduced by 5 points for missing votes while on the 2008 presidential campaign trail). We hope that we can work with her on those negative votes, like on offshore oil drilling, to convince her that we need to transition off of dirty fuels.
  • Former White House advisor John Podesta, who led many of the Obama administration’s climate change efforts, has joined her presidential campaign.

At this early stage in the 2016 election, our hope is that every presidential candidate will come out strongly for action on climate change. We’re excited today that Hillary Clinton may be such a candidate. In 2014 she said, “the unprecedented action that President Obama has taken [on the Clean Power Plan] must be protected at all cost.” As a new grandmother and as the former chief foreign affairs officer of our nation, Clinton fully understands what’s at stake.

We are looking for a leader who will work tirelessly to commit to cut carbon pollution by at least 28 percent by 2025, and thereafter to achieve even greater reductions as required by sound science, and lead a transition to an economy powered by clean, renewable and efficient energy. We need someone who will demonstrate the global leadership needed to get our partners around the world to do their part to protect the well-being of the planet through strong international agreements, and defend and strengthen the fundamental safeguards that protect our air, water, lands, and wildlife.

The American electorate is ready for nothing less.

A Climate Christian Reflects on the Cruz Candidacy

When Senator Ted Cruz announced his presidential candidacy at Liberty University this week, he spoke in phrases intended to resonate with people like me and my family: devout Christians. I come from a long line of people who put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, and I am raising my children to do the same. Cruz tried to appeal to these values in his speech, yet his claims rang hollow to me.

What I couldn’t get past in the speech was the knowledge that his words don’t match his actions in Washington where he seems to relish creating division on everything from the budget to climate change. He constantly creates fights and fails to prioritize any kind of common ground or service.

While churches across the nation are actively trying to irradiate malaria, or end human trafficking, or address climate change – my church is a proud supporter of the Imagine No Malaria campaign—Cruz is bent on grinding the government to a halt and dismantling policies that help people rather than creating them.

I don’t expect to share Cruz’s views, but I do believe a self-proclaimed Christian candidate should take positive action to improve people’s lives. Cruz seems more interested in being the troublemaker-in-chief than building the city on the hill.

Just look at his nay saying on climate change.

Cruz recently said the “snow and ice” in New Hampshire were evidence that climate change is not happening and the earth is not warming. The facts show otherwise: the 10 hottest years on record have all come since 1998.
Some conservative churches don’t recognize the climate crisis, yet many Christian groups—from the Evangelical Environmental Network to the Southern Baptist Convention to the Roman Catholic Church—understand that climate change is a threat to millions of people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

One of my heroes, Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, does a great job of explaining what’s at stake. Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech in Lubbock and an evangelical. She infuses her Christian values into descriptions of the mechanics of climate change: “When I look at the information we get from the planet, I look it as God’s creation speaking to us. And this case, there is no question that God’s creation is telling us that it is running a fever,” she says.

Cruz ignores these facts. That could hurt him with the two-thirds of Americans who believe world leaders have a moral obligation to address climate change, according to a recent Reuters poll. And it could hurt him with the 50 percent of Republican voters who agree the federal government should reduce climate change pollution, according to an AP survey.

There is almost no chance Cruz can secure the GOP nomination. But he could become a folk hero. He could position himself as a more powerful Sarah Palin who rallies the base and pulls the party over to his divisive ways. This is a troubling prospect for all of us who want to serve others and protect creation. In other words, the majority of Americans.