President Obama has developed a concrete and achievable plan for confronting the threat of climate change. In a powerful speech on Monday, he announced the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants and laid out how it will shield future generations from climate chaos, make the air safer to breathe and save Americans money on energy bills.
What plan have Republican leaders offered? Nothing. All we’ve heard are the same tired criticisms while Republican leaders in Congress work to block any and all action to attack climate change.
Their opposition to carbon pollution limits is to be expected: they’ve vowed to block them for months now. Several GOP presidential candidates used Monday’s announcement to pile on, with Senator Ted Cruz calling the Clean Power Plan “lawless and radical,” and Former Governor Jeb Bush implying that carbon pollution will take care of itself—no government action necessary.
Hearing GOP candidates attack a Democratic president’s policies is not surprising. What should be surprising—and alarming—is that not a single Republican leader has provided an alternative solution to the biggest environmental and humanitarian crisis of our time.
Some of these leaders, like Ted Cruz, are sticking with outright denial of the science. And they don’t seem to have noticed how far public opinion has moved.
I just got back from a family road trip through 15 states and a dozen national parks. Along the way, we met people from across the country. None of them talked about global climate change explicitly, but many spoke about personal concerns that explain where the support for climate action is coming from.
One family we ate with in Yellowstone was glued to their phones for updates about a wildfire approaching their home. A mom we met was in a panic because her son forgot his inhaler at the Bright Angel trail. Another family we spoke to in Minnesota feared they would lose their crops due to flooding. Others were worried about drought in their hometowns.
President Obama spoke about similar concerns in his speech on Monday. He focused on how climate change and air pollution can hit home—how people struggle to breathe during asthma attacks triggered by dirty air, how they worry about their cities flooding at high tide or during storms, and how they want to leave something better for their kids.
This is how most people talk about climate change. They express concern about what climate change means for their daily lives.
Candidates who want to win in 2016 must embrace climate action and explain how it will help real people in their daily lives.
Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans want leaders to do something about those impacts. That includes a sizeable chunk of Republicans. A Yale University poll found that 56 percent of all GOP voters support limiting carbon pollution, with 54 percent of conservative Republicans and 74 percent of moderate Republicans especially likely to favor them. A late July poll commissioned by the NRDC Action Fund and League of Conservation Voters of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina showed that strong majorities say it is important that GOP candidates have a clean energy plan, and three quarters support their state submitting a plan to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
In the midst of flooded streets and scorched homes, people look to leaders who envision a brighter future and offer a roadmap get there. President Obama has put forward a plan for addressing climate change, bringing good paying jobs to states across the nation and improving our families’ health.
The Republican Party has shown up empty-handed to the climate fight. That’s bad for our communities—and it’s bad for candidates who want to win in 2016.