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, Fiorina to Huckabee to 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 U.S. Senator -- and environmental champion -- Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) has announced that he's running for a rematch against dirty denier Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who unseated him five years ago.
Johnson Is a Dirty Denier and Dirty-Air Villain
Johnson is a true denier. He has a 100-percent record of voting against clean air in the WhoVotesDirty.com database, earning him the "dirty-air villain" title, and a mere 7-percent 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 percent 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-percent LCV score for his 18 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, a rule 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 U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would have undone the EPA's endangerment finding and stopped efforts to address carbon pollution, explaining that "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 the health of its residents, the state needs a leader who will work to act on climate.
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.