When Barack Obama announced his Presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois he spoke of climate change.
Let's be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let's be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.
Obama was the first major party nominee for President who made climate change a central theme included in every major campaign speech. He even showed politicians how to make it sound poetic. It helped elect him twice. Climate change or clean energy policy was a significant portion of every State of the Union address. That's something environmentalists should celebrate for what it says about the electoral appeal of the issue.
Nearly seven weeks after she announced her campaign for President, Hillary Clinton has yet to make a noticeable statement on climate change. At her first campaign speech in South Carolina Wednesday she didn't mention it all, despite the threat of more hurricanes hitting the state.
The best gesture for the climate movement so far is a tweet from an adviser. It's a disappointing step backward from having climate take center stage.
It's a risky move since Clinton already has a credibility problem on climate. Her most significant actions to date are promoting fracking as Secretary of State and allowing oil industry influence to corrupt the state department process on Keystone XL pipeline. The climate crisis requires bold, aggressive action against entrenched corporate special interests, which isn't a style of politics Clinton is known for.
Clinton will probably have an easy time getting endorsements from beltway green groups hoping to gain influence. But as Pat Quinn learned in Illinois, and Mark Udall learned in Colorado, promoting regulated fracking is a tough sell to environmental voters no matter what endorsements a candidate can brag about. Without a major change to her campaign, primary voters will be forced to look elsewhere for a climate champion.
After making a joke in South Carolina about coloring her hair, Clinton claimed, "you're not going to see me shrink from a fight." But so far, she's ducking the most urgent fight of our time.