Once upon a time, both Republicans and Democrats saw climate change as a problem. For a fleeting moment last election cycle, candidates across the board talked about the problem and supported implementing policies to do something about it.
But that (often tenuous) bipartisanship has completely reversed. As GOP lawmakers tiptoed away from their earlier support for climate action in recent years — with many eventually moving toward outright rejection of the science — the issue has become almost entirely partisan. Some former Republican lawmakers are trying to bring their party back around, but there are very few signs that climate will become less politicized after the election.
So in today’s election, a “win” in the eyes of climate advocates largely means a “win” for Democrats. As a result, environmental groups have targeted key races that will put Democratic environmental champions in office and limit the influence of Republicans with poor climate records.
Below are some political outcomes environmental groups have been pushing for that might favor climate action in the coming years.
1. Passing the Proposal 3 ballot initiative in Michigan.
This is one of the toughest fights for clean energy advocates this election. Proposal 3 is a ballot initiative in Michigan that would amend the state’s constitution and increase renewable electricity targets to 25 percent by 2025. The proposal initially had majority support from voters and a high profile endorsement from Bill Clinton. But after the state’s two largest utilities and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity raised more than $25 million to defeat the measure, sentiment has shifted in the other direction.
In a year when clean energy has become a major political attack point, Michigan’s ballot initiative was billed as a Big Deal for establishing positive momentum. But proponents were outspent 2-1 by coal-heavy utilities, significantly weakening their campaign. If the current polls are any indication, this will be a loss tonight.
2. Defeating members of the “Flat Earth Five.”
In July, the League of Conservation Voters rolled out a $1.5 million campaign to defeat members of Congress who deny that climate change exists. Dubbed the “Flat Earth Five,” the list of Republicans includes Anne Marie Buerlke (NY), Dan Benishek (MI), Dan Lungren (CA), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL). These five candidates represent only a small number of climate deniers in the House of Representatives. But they are more vulnerable than others, and LCV specifically targeted them for their climate views in order to influence tighter races.
In a Politico op-ed today, LCV’s President, Gene Karpinski, outlined the organization’s strategy for targeted ads and mailers: “Coming into this daunting election cycle, LCV understood that we could never match our deep-pocketed opposition dollar for dollar. But we knew from extensive polling that voters are with us on the issues; they strongly support clean energy and want leaders who will confront the challenge of global warming.”
The outcome of these House races will be an indicator of how well this strategy worked.
3. Electing “Climate Heroes” to office.