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.

Running Clean: Good Policy, Good Politics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Melissa Harrison, NRDC Action Fund, 202-513-6278, mharrison@nrdc.org

NRDC Action Fund Video & Infographic Shows Roadmap to Success for 2016 Candidates

WASHINGTON (March 17, 2015) – With a look toward the 2016 elections, the NRDC Action Fund is releasing Running Clean: Good Policy, Good Politics, which shows that candidates who run clean are more likely to win because they are supported by voters who want a cleaner environment. Running Clean features three environmental champions outlining in their own words their roadmap to success in 2014 by supporting action on climate change and investments in clean energy. Their path to victory on Election Day, is one all 2016 candidates should embrace.

Our 2014 video series contains video interviews with: Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Gary Peters (D-Michigan).  Their hard-fought campaigns demonstrated that America’s leaders will be supported by voters if they embrace a clean agenda that fosters good jobs, healthy families, conservation and a more sustainable future.

“The last election cycle demonstrated again that running clean is not just good policy, but is also a winning political strategy,” said Peter Lehner, NRDC Action Fund Executive Director. “The NRDC Action Fund produced Running Clean as a roadmap for future candidates who want solid evidence that supporting clean energy and protecting the environment will help provide them a path to electoral victory.  Of course, other factors also play a role, but we now have many races over several election cycles which show that all around the country running clean helps candidates win.”

“It’s simple, Running Clean works,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “Supporting candidates who run on platforms which endorse clean energy investments, protecting the environment and conserving our natural resources will help us grow the environmental majority across America. Candidates from both sides of the aisle should be looking for opportunities to embrace these issues. Ultimately, candidates want to be on the right side of the values represented by their voters and this is a prime example of what’s best for our future.”

In addition to the video series, the NRDC Action Fund also produced its first Running Clean infographic featuring Senator Peters as a roadmap for future candidates who want solid evidence that supporting clean energy and protecting the environment will help provide them a path to electoral victory.

The Running Clean infographic and videos can be found online at: www.nrdcactionfund.org/runningclean

To view the video interviews:

Senator Shaheen

In her video interview Senator Shaheen says, “New Hampshire has for a very long time recognized that we can balance a strong economy and protecting the environment.”

Senator Schatz

In his video interview Senator Schatz says, “We need more leadership in the area of climate. It is the greatest challenge of our generation.”

Senator Peters

In his video interview Senator Peters says, “Clean energy and climate was something that was relevant to everybody, no matter where I was in the state.”

To view the infographic: Winning Strategy

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The goal of the NRDC Action Fund is to grow the environmental majority across America. The Action Fund is growing power in the places that always matter around the country, so that together we can protect public health and the environment. www.nrdcactionfund.org

Note to reporters/editors: The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council. 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 needs to be identified as from the “NRDC Action Fund.” The “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect. 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.

 

Rick Perry, Still A Denier

Rick Perry is back and this time he’s in it to win it. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Perry left behind the bumbling Tea Party conservative of 2012 and did his best to appear a reasonable, professorial moderate on environmental issues. Yet, even this more polished Perry continued to flub the truth about environmental protection.

Remembering 2012

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Perry is attempting to shed the skin of his last presidential campaign In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you of the crowning moment of Perry’s 2012 run. During a debate, Perry intended to name three cabinet-level agencies that his administration would eliminate. There was only one problem: Perry couldn’t remember that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Oops.

Perry seems to be remaking himself this time around. Not only is his face now bespectacled, but he’s pretending he’s made an about-face on climate denial.

A Denier Can’t Win

It seems Perry has gotten the memo that a climate denier can’t win the White House in 2016. Polling shows that too many Americans are concerned about climate change to give the highest office in the land to someone who ignores this threat to our health, economy, and security.

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News survey, a full 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats support limiting climate change pollution from power plants. Closer to home, a Yale poll found that 70 percent of Texans believe in climate change and a majority believe government should be doing more about global warming.

Voters are looking for a leader who will confront the big challenges, not deny their existence.

During the last campaign, Perry said about climate change: “The science is – is not settled on this.”  He went on that “just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Perry’s Change of Emphasis

At CPAC, Perry de-emphasized his denial and instead “explained how Texas managed to reduce pollution during an economic boom.” He argued that Texas added people and jobs while reducing nitrous oxide, ozone and carbon pollution through “thoughtful and incentive-based regulations.” He made the similar statements about pollution reduction in his farewell speech to the Texas legislature.

The good people at Factcheck.org have already demolished the content of Perry’s claims, pointing out that he “exaggerates the Texas reduction in nitrogen oxide”, omits pollution from certain sources, and mischaracterized the policies that led to the reductions. In fact, Perry “ignores” two of the biggest drivers of recent pollution reduction in Texas: “the contribution of federal policy to wind energy and the shift away from a manufacturing-based economy.”

While Perry got his facts wrong about the reasons for and statistics behind Texas’s pollution reductions, there is at least one area where he’s got it right: a growing economy and pollution reduction absolutely do go hand in hand. This chart shows that from 1990 through 2008, U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased by more than 64 percent while the six most common air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act decreased 41 percent.

As the 2016 election season warms up, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on Perry and the other candidates hoping to win the White House. A denier can’t win. A candidate who offers climate solutions will.

First 50 Days: Nothing but the Big Polluter Agenda

Around the time the new Congress marked its first 50 days, my children’s classes were celebrating the 100th day of school. Students did a hundred math problems, read books for a hundred minutes, and brought in bags of a hundred objects like dried beans and pasta.

If Republicans in Congress marked their milestone in a similar way, they would probably write up 50 ways to gut environmental safeguards or haul in 50 miniature smokestacks.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be at the top of the class.

Fifty days into the new Congress, McConnell has established himself as a champion of polluting industries. McConnell devoted much of this session to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil and trying to block the EPA from reducing climate change emissions. These efforts get a failing grade from public health experts because they would increase pollution linked to asthma attacks, respiratory illness and cancer.

Why has the GOP leadership used the first 50 days to push pollution? Perhaps it has something to do with their super-wealthy donors. Oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $721 million to support their candidates and interests in Congress over the past two years. McConnell raked in $608,000 from the fossil fuel industry for his 2014 campaign.

Yet while most Republican lawmakers stump for more pollution, Americans are calling for less.

A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that fully 70 percent of Americans say the federal government should limit the amount of climate change pollution coming from power plants. Most Americans trust the EPA more than Congress when it comes to addressing pollution, according a recent poll done by the American Lung Association. And 51 percent of Kentuckians wanted McConnell to say he recognizes that human activity causes climate change—something he refused to do in the election season.

A strong majority of Americans want leaders to confront the climate crisis, but the Republican leadership has refused. They have failed utterly to offer any plan for dealing with the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time. During his campaign, McConnell promised to handcuff the EPA and stop climate action. That attracted industry dollars. But it’s not why most people voted for him. Kentuckians want to breathe clean air and shield their children from disastrous impacts from climate change.

The NRDC Action Fund also made a promise during the midterms: We vowed to hold lawmakers accountable for backing polluters over people.

Our commitment doesn’t end with the campaign cycle. We stay on the job, tracking member votes, tallying industry lobbying dollars, and letting voters know when lawmakers try to make the air dirtier or the water less safe to drink.

So when McConnell spends 50 days pushing the Big Polluter Agenda, we spread the word in Kentucky and beyond. And when Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner votes against incentives for wind energy just months after he posed for a campaign ad in the middle of a wind farm, we let people know.

Because Washington shouldn’t be like Vegas: what happens there shouldn’t stay there. Voters should know what their lawmakers are doing. And they should expect those lawmakers to keep our kids safe from pollution.

 

Climate Valentines: Time to Define the Relationship

February 14th is the day when Americans celebrate love with cards, flowers and chocolate. At my house, the kids are busy making paper hearts and cranking out scores of cards for their friends. Their handiwork inspired me to create a Valentine for members of Congress who need to have “the talk.”

Until just a few weeks ago, Republicans in Congress had largely denied or ignored the urgent need to act on climate change. Things have started to shift ever so slightly in the past few weeks: suddenly #DirtyDenier$ are getting real.

Maybe a climate cupid shot his arrows through the halls of the Senate, but at the end of last month, 53 GOP senators passed an amendment acknowledging the climate is changing, 15 approved an amendment saying humans have something to do with those changes, and 5 endorsed one saying human activity “significantly” contributes to climate change.

What do these votes mean? Is the GOP reconsidering its monogamous relationship with fossil fuel companies? Are they asking for an “open relationship” with the Koch Brothers? Is the GOP interested in seeing other voters?

It’s time for the talk: the “DTR” conversation that defines the relationship. That’s how we’ll know if the GOP is ready for that ultimate public declaration of love: the relationship status change on Facebook.

Voters are ready for a commitment. Two thirds of Americans favor the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to address climate change by limiting carbon pollution from power plants, according to a November survey by Harstad Strategic Research.

A New York Times/Stanford poll released last week found that a full 54 percent of Hispanics—that increasingly popular voting bloc—say climate change is extremely or very important to them personally, and 63 favor the federal government taking broad steps to address this crisis.

As Republican leaders try to define their relationship with climate change in advance of the 2016 election, the “it’s complicated” status will no longer suffice with the majority of voters.

GOP candidates who want to win in the next cycle have to get serious. It’s not enough to recognize that the climate is changing. They need to do something about it. They need to offer an action plan for confronting the biggest public health and environmental threat of our time. They need to put a ring on it.

My wish for this Valentine’s Day is for #DirtyDenier$ to truly define their relationship with climate change. And that they begin by ending their love affair with dirty polluters. Here’s what I would put on my Valentine:

Roses are red, the climate is hot. #RunningClean is cool, but #DirtyDenier$ are not.

Ok, so the makers of Sweethearts candies might not be hiring me anytime soon and the puns in the blog post may be a bit much. But my heart is in the right place: I truly hope the Republican Party will decide to act on our generations’ biggest challenge.