Obama’s Mandate to Tackle Climate Change

From OpEdNews.com

By Richard Schiffman

For Americans concerned about the environment, disaster was avoided on Tuesday. President Obama — with his somewhat lackluster record, if decidedly more exalted rhetoric, on global warming — defeated the Republican challenger who had vowed to gut federal emissions standards and kill loan programs and tax breaks for green-energy companies.

But activists say that it would be wrong to read the election as a stamp of approval for four more years of business as usual. They argue that voters have sent a clear signal that they want more aggressive action on the environment during the president’s second term.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) cites the defeat of three members of their “Flat Earth Five” — Anne Marie Buerlke (New York), Francisco Canseco (Texas), and Joe Walsh (Illinois) — Republican representatives who were outspoken for their anti-science stance on climate change. (One race remains too close to call.) And ten of the League’s “dirty dozen” candidates — targeted for “consistently voting against clean energy and conservation” — lost their election bids.

Meanwhile, 11 out of 12 of the office-seekers dubbed “climate heroes” by a coalition led by environmental activist Bill McKibben prevailed in Tuesday’s vote. The 12th “hero”, Jay Inslee, a gubernatorial candidate in Washington state who wants to jump-start the state’s lagging economy by transforming it into a national green-tech hub, continues to hold a small lead over Republican Rob McKenna and looks poised to win that race.

The election results overturn the conventional wisdom that voters don’t care about green issues, according to LCV’s spokesperson Jeff Gohringer:

“We went into this election cycle and the notion was that environmental champions were going to be wiped off the map. We did $3m-worth of advertising on climate change in places like Texas, and we won.”

This sentiment was echoed by Frances Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who wrote to her members on Wednesday that:

“By rejecting Big Oil’s candidates, voters sent a message loud and clear that they want more clean energy, less climate denial and an end to the $4bn in taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels.”

Some environmentalists have characterized Obama’s very re-election as a mandate for strong action on climate change. This is a hard argument to make given that the topic scarcely came up during the presidential race. Obama, who frequently expressed concern about the climate during his first run for the presidency in 2008, failed to talk about it on the stump this time around. The president’s campaign advisers apparently calculated that there were few votes to be won, and potentially many to be lost, if Obama were to appear to advocate tougher regulations on industry at a time of low economic growth and high unemployment in America.

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