As Public Opinion Shifts, Candidates Explicitly Run On Doing Something About Climate Change


McAuliffe campaign ad "Witch Hunt"

McAuliffe campaign ad “Witch Hunt”

Recent polling has shown that the public — and younger voters in particular — are increasingly turned off by candidates who deny climate science and plan to make it a voting issue. In key 2013 races, environmentalist candidates have proactively used the issue in campaign ads.

While this year is considered an “off-year” in American politics — only New Jersey and Virginia hold their gubernatorial and legislative elections the year after presidential elections — the resignation of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to become Secretary of State and the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) triggered special elections for both seats. In all three states, climate change is playing a key role in the campaigns:

1. VIRGINIA: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), his party’s nominee for governor, has proudly boasted of his climate change-denial, often mockingly inviting audiences to exhale carbon dioxide together just to annoy the Environmental Protection Agency. But Cuccinelli illegal witch-hunt and fishing expedition against former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann has become a key point of contrast in Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe’s campaign. Mann has campaigned with McAuliffe and is now the subject of a new McAuliffe campaign ad.

Watch the spot:

2. NEW JERSEY: While Tea Party Senate candidate Steve Lonegan (R), the former state director for the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, dismisses climate warnings “silly hysteria,” he is considered a long shot against the winner of the August Democratic primary. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D), and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D) have all made clear that they support climate action. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D), himself a scientist, has gone a step further, making an 85-second ad warning that physics tells us that without action, “sea levels will rise, superstorms like Sandy will become more frequent, floods, droughts, and wildfires will become more severe, entire swaths of the planet will become unfit for human habitation, and millions will die.”

Watch the spot:

3. MASSACHUSETTS: In his June special election victory, Senator Ed Markey (D) made addressing climate change a key focal point of his campaign. Markey, who chaired the House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming from 2007 to 2010, highlighted his commitment to “taking climate change seriously for the sake of generations to come” in campaign spots. His opponent, private equity investor Republican Gabriel Gomez, called himself a “green Republican” but dismissed most climate change action as “not rational” and refused to identify any proposals he supported other than supporting building the environmentally-risky Keystone pipeline.

Watch one of his spots:

A March Pew poll found 69 percent of Americans correctly believe there is solid evidence that the planet is warming.

A study published in the subscription-only Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday noted that by the year 2100, substantial parts of 1,700 U.S. cities could face sea level rise that will eventually submerge them, including 60 threatened communities in Virginia, 56 in Massachusetts, and 150 in New Jersey.