THE BLOG

A New Election Climate

07/24/2014 01:58 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2014
Jeff Moore/Jeff Moore

Climate change was a no show issue in the 2012 national election cycle. That won't (nor should) be the case when Americans go to the voting booths this November.

Two years ago, the topic was conspicuously absent in the presidential and congressional campaigns. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney evidently thought it was to their political advantage to bring up the issue. The media cooperated by not broaching the subject either in the presidential debates or on the weekend network TV political interview shows preceding the election.

The national environment movement is determined not to have a repeat performance, and it has favorable conditions for realizing its objective. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans are concerned in varying degrees about potential adverse impacts from global warming, a trend ripe for political exploitation.

Environmental groups plan to take advantage by running ads against Republican senatorial candidates in swing states, seeing as the GOP is the Party populated by global warming "deniers". These targeted Republican reject any human role in climate change as well as insist that nothing is happening outside of natural weather variation.

Environmental activists' hope to help the more eco-friendly Democrats retain control of the Senate. This time around, the environmental movement has the war chest to fund a formidable advertising campaign, courtesy of some sympathetic well-heeled donors led by former venture capitalist Tom Steyer.

Given this backdrop, many Democratic politicians sense the other side's vulnerability on the issue, and won't hold back on the campaign trail as in the past. If Republicans simply dismiss Democrats' warnings as a manifestation of alarmist rhetoric, they set themselves up for the following response. How comfortable will Republican candidates be if Democrats reply "What if the Republicans are wrong and the grim projections come to pass? "Better safe than sorry" has powerful appeal with voters of all political persuasions.

Democrats could recite substantial evidence that climate change was well under way and accelerating, yet sign off with a positive message. The strategies that exist to combat global warming make good sense, even if the worst never materializes. Energy efficiency and conservation save money and contribute to a cleaner environment. A gradual switch to renewable energy will also result in less pollution, cheaper electricity bills, and in the long run, a more job intensive employment picture than offered by the current dominant fossil fuel industry. Reforestation will increase the nation's biodiversity and watershed capacity as well as act as a sponge to absorb and purify air and water pollutants. Carbon emission reduction regulations will initially raise electricity bills a modest monthly amount (the cost of an average fast food restaurant meal), but over the long haul, will lower consumer costs. Most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency calculates the regulatory benefits from a reduction in health costs and avoidance of runaway climate change damage far exceed the compliance costs of Obama's new carbon emission rule.

Republican leaders seem to believe that while their global warming denial won't win any independent voters, it won't alienate enough moderate Republicans and independents to make a difference.

Not everyone is convinced. Cracks are beginning to show in the once solid Republican denial phalanx. Some GOP politicians are acting defensively to the looming Democratic strategy and are starting to politically hedge their bets. They are not directly renouncing their denial stance, but are claiming they are not scientists and therefore lack the expertise to make a definitive judgment.

Even Florida Governor Rick Scott is having second thoughts. Recognizing that his Democratic opponent plans to make climate change a major campaign issue in a state with great vulnerability to the elements, Scott is tempering his flat-out rejection of global warming. He has agreed to meet with some Florida scientists who seek to convince him of the validity of the threat.

In short, politics will no longer serve to silence global warming debate but accomplish just the opposite, and Americans will be all the better for it.