New analysis finds “taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters”
As polls continue to show that talking about climate change is a politically beneficial issue among registered voters, some candidates are responding.
Looking to get her seat in Congress back, former New Hampshire Democratic Representative Carol Shea-Porter is the most recent politician to make climate change part of her campaign. In a recent letter to supporters, Shea-Porter lambasted “climate change deniers in Congress” who are spreading misinformation and blocking action:
America and the world have had quite an awful time the past few years with wild weather–drought, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wind, heat. Many people in our country have died in these natural disasters, and New Hampshire has had its share of trouble. While we use the word “natural,” most people now believe that these disasters are a result of global warming, also called climate change. However, there are still too many climate change deniers in Congress, and this is preventing the United States from moving forward, even as time is running out to slow down climate change.
On this issue, Shea-Porter has backing from many Republicans in the state. New Hampshire has an active group of Republican climate hawks who are working to get their party to seriously address the problem. When presidential hopefuls were flocking to the state during primary season, two prominent Republicans penned an op-ed calling on the candidates to address climate during their campaigns:
There is little doubt in the scientific and political community that climate change is the environmental challenge of our time. The effects of climate change are real, measurable, and requires strong presidential leadership to bring about real solutions.
It is a mistake to view climate change, or conservation issues in general, through a partisan lens. A recent poll of New Hampshire voters conducted by the Mellman Group found that over 70 percent of Republican primary voters see global warming as a serious threat.
And these findings are backed up nationwide. A new report from George Mason University analyzing recent surveys of registered voters shows that talking about climate action is a positive for candidates.
According to a March survey from George Mason, 55 percent of voters said they will consider candidates’ positions on climate change in upcoming elections. The survey also found that independent voters lean far more toward climate action, with 68 percent saying we should take medium or large-scale action to address the problem.
Most importantly, talking about climate change is not likely to lose a candidate votes.
According to a 2010 poll from Stanford University, Republicans said they would not change their attitudes about a particular politician based upon statements made about climate change or “green” issues.
As a recent poll from the Pew Research Center found, the only voters likely to see talking about climate change and clean energy as a negative are very conservative Tea Party males — many of whom would never vote for a moderate candidate to begin with.
Researchers at George Mason University summed up the trend in their recent analysis:
The short answer is that – at the national level and among ten key swing states – taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters. Of course, the political dynamics in any given district may be an exception to this pattern, but it is important to note that the pattern is similar at both the national and swing-state scales.
The trend is clear: talking about climate change and raising public awareness of the issue isn’t just a moral obligation, it’s also politically beneficial. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to understand this when he delivered a major speech on climate at the opening of his National Clean Energy Summit two weeks ago.
Here’s the rest of Shea-Porter’s letter to voters:
After years of arguing about whether we were experiencing climate change as a result of our human activities, the evidence is pretty convincing to most scientists at this point. Most agree it is from burning fossil fuels. Seth Borenstein, an AP science writer, reported that Richard Muller, a “prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming”, conducted a two-year study to see if the earth was heating up. While he did not study the cause, his conclusion was that the earth was rapidly heating up. This was huge news in the climate skeptic industry, whose ranks grow smaller every day.
Consider the evidence for just this summer. The heat has been tormenting people. American farmers are experiencing a drought disaster. There are wild storms across the country. Greenland has just experienced a huge ice melt. Christine Roberts of The New York Daily News wrote that, “The ice sheet that blankets Greenland has melted at an astonishing rate this summer, stunning NASA scientists and leaving many wondering what will happen next. Nearly 97% of Greenland’s surface ice sheet thawed during a four day period in July – more than it ever has in the last 30 years, NASA satellite data shows.”
Extreme weather and climate change are tied together, and scientists have collected a lot of data to show this. Reuters environmental correspondent Alister Doyle just reported that “A study this month, for instance, showed that greenhouse gas emissions had raised the chances of the severe heat wave in Texas in 2011 and unusual heat in Britain in late 2011.” Doyle says that evidence that we will continue to have severe weather where we live might help experts to plan for the costs associated with it, and to find ways to deal with climate change.
Maybe. But first, we need our policy makers-Congress-to finally acknowledge climate change and stop stalling on finding solutions. We have too many members who refuse to admit there is climate change, or that the federal government has a role to play in stopping it. For example, our Congressman in New Hampshire’s First District, Frank Guinta, told the Raymond Tea Party that the federal government has no role to play in fixing global warming.
Congressman Guinta is not alone in trying to block any corrective action. The military has been very concerned about climate change and access to fuel, and is now using some biofuels. Some senators are fighting this on the grounds that it could cost more than traditional fuels. This is discouraging, because scientists tell us we need to act quickly now to change our dependence, and there is also a national security issue here. We must break our dependence on oil for environmental and security reasons, and we must do it now.
I believe there should be an Apollo-type program to address these issues, advance renewable energy, and slow down climate change. But our current Congress took 27 votes to block action to address climate change in 2011, and 94% of the Republican members voted to block any action. If Americans want to fix this climate change problem, they will first need to fix Congress in November.
Of course, just talking about climate change doesn’t get us action. But at a time when our President — the man with the largest megaphone in the country — refuses to talk about the problem, creating a rhetorical drumbeat is one way to get the issue back on the national priority list.