Recently, the Wonk Room identified six Senate races and eight House races in which supporters of climate action are pitted against candidates who deny that climate change exists.
One candidate, Allen West in Florida, asked “Al Gore to apologize to God,” while another, David Harmer in California, said “Global warming is more a religion than a science.” Such candidates simply ignore the science, and the consensus reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. They have nothing credible to respond to the logic of climate science – we’ve known for more than a century that carbon dioxide traps heat – or its scientific conclusions – no natural phenomena can explain the average temperatures of recent decades. They don’t counter the science; they simply reject it.
The statements of these candidates make it clear this midterm election isn’t about Democrats versus Republicans. It’s about reality versus fantasy. It’s about real policy solutions versus angry diatribes.
And it’s the reason why this is one of the most important elections you can get active in. You thought the 2008 presidential election was big, and it was. But right now, we are fighting a battle to maintain straight-forward, reality-based lawmaking in Congress.
If this were just the same old two-party brawl, we could still make progress on clean energy solutions. There are plenty of Republican incumbents who (when pressed), will say they know America has to confront climate change (and even more will say so privately). There are also Republican lawmakers who act like statesmen — leaders who engage in civil dialogue and make meaningful compromises.
But the Tea Party has yanked the GOP to the right, and all GOP candidates for the Senate now say climate change is not a threat worth acting on or that it doesn’t even exist. Statements that should be viewed as loony are being portrayed as mainstream. We are facing the biggest environmental challenge of the century, and China is eating our lunch in the clean energy market, but GOP leaders are sticking with the old and the dirty.
They profess to hate cap and trade, despite the fact that it is a conservative, market-based idea that was first signed into law by President Bush in 1990 to curb acid rain, after being passed in the House by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority of 401-25 and in the Senate, 89-10. But hey, who cares about historical facts if they get in the way of campaign rhetoric?
I know we are in an anti-government year. I get it. But, at the end of the day, we cannot allow gross misrepresentations and disavowals of scientific data to rule the day. We have to fight back. Tea Party candidates operate on instinct not information, and it’s up to us to set the record straight. Speak up at campaign events. Write letters to the editor. Email articles like this one that explain that rather than burdening homeowners with a so-called energy tax, the program to reduce global warming pollution from Northeastern power plants has SAVED consumers $900 million on their energy bills.
And don’t be shy about talking to your neighbors. I was at a neighborhood party recently when a man started spouting crazy notions about taxes and the Constitution. I finally had to say, “Excuse me, but you are speaking falsehoods. It’s okay to have your own opinions, but please don’t represent them as facts.”
This is where we are right now. We have to pull out our mommy voices and say it’s time for everybody to do their homework.
That includes the media. Write a letter every time they talk about groups like Americans for Prosperity and fail to report that it is not a grassroots movement but is actually funded by the billionaire Koch brothers and other oil industry interests.
Maybe in the past you would have rolled your eyes at these kinds of misrepresentations. But now isn’t the time to be privately distressed. Now is the time to be publicly engaged.
I assure you: if you think it is bad for climate science and clean energy solutions now, you have to realize that it will only get worse if we don’t fight back.