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Democrats Committed To Climate Action At The DNC, While Republicans Doubled Down On Denial

CREDIT: AP IMAGES/DYLAN PETROHILOS
CREDIT: AP IMAGES/DYLAN PETROHILOS

It’s been a week of wild weather in Philadelphia. A heat wave has been baking the city so badly residents are noticing not only the consistently scorching temperatures but also that nights are staying hotter than they ever remembered. A thunderstorm roared through on Monday and forecasters issued warnings about flash floods on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.

These shifts are expected to intensify as climate change amplifies the effect of worsening heat waves around the world and downpours and flooding events get more severe as the planet warms.

While the reality of our warming planet is impossible to ignore outside, the attitude toward the root cause — climate change — could not have been more different at the two major parties’ nominating conventions. At last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, for instance, climate change and any potential solutions to it were wholly ignored — only mentioned a few times as a way to mock Democrats.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton used her Thursday night acceptance speech to underscore her commitment to fighting climate change.

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“I believe in science,” she said, one of her biggest applause lines. “I believe climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.”

“I am proud we shaped a global climate agreement,” she said later in the speech. “Now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves.”

A five-minute video called “Not Reality TV” played at the DNC on Wednesday night, narrated by Sigourney Weaver and produced by James Cameron. It showed the impacts of climate change, touted Hillary Clinton’s clean energy priorities, and attacked Donald Trump for his “reckless denial of climate change” that is “dangerous, a threat to your livelihood, your safety, your children and the prosperity of this nation.”

The video features former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), former President George H.W. Bush, and Pope Francis all expressing varying levels of concern about climate change. This provided a clear distinction with the current GOP nominee, who has consistently denied the reality of climate change and the science that backs it.

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Cameron said earlier in the day that Trump was “a madman” and “incredibly reckless, incredibly dangerous” due to his climate denial.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on Monday night that “Hillary will fight to preserve this earth for our children and grandchildren.”

Clinton’s onetime rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), made the case for Clinton and against Trump when it comes to the climate crisis:

This election is about climate change, the great environmental crisis facing our planet. And the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our children and future generations.

Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that unless we act boldly to transform our energy system in the very near future, there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, more rising sea levels. She understands that we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs transforming our energy system.

Donald Trump? Well, like most Republicans he chooses to reject science. He believes that climate change is a hoax, no need to address it. Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the profits of the fossil fuel industry.

Sanders’ appointees to the party platform committee were instrumental in helping to write the strongest climate platform in party history. It did not call for a fracking ban — a key Sanders goal — but it did call for a carbon price, a goal of 100 percent renewable energy nationwide, and an outline for steps to exceeding our Paris commitments.

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The Republican platform, however, now denies the reality of climate change — a reality the same document treated much more seriously just eight years ago.

Not every choice made by the Democratic party, however, necessarily aligns with the most progressive climate policies. Clinton’s first major decision after she became the presumptive nominee was to choose a running mate: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). It’s hard to read the tea leaves on what, if anything, this means for a possible Clinton administration’s climate and energy agenda. Kaine likely would not describe himself as a climate hawk, but he’s no slouch, either. He supports the president’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from the power sector and he opposed the Keystone XL pipeline for climate reasons.

“Kaine was with farmers and ranchers on Keystone XL, helping us protect our land and water from eminent domain abuse and climate change,” activist Jane Fleming Kleeb told ThinkProgress. “There is no question citizens must bring Kaine and Clinton to where the science and the people are on the risks of fracked gas pipelines. That is a challenge we can take on. Electing Trump is game over for property rights and our water.”

The League of Conservation Voters give Kaine a lifetime score of 91 percent, docking him points on trade deals and a vote on the fracking drinking water loophole. Kaine merits a 93 percent lifetime score from the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. Climate Hawks Vote’s scorecard, however, give Kaine a score of +2, on a -100 to +100 scale — better than fellow senator Mark Warner (-7) but much worse than climate leader Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

When Whitehouse led a group of Senate Democrats on the floor to talk about the fossil fuel industry’s denial of the reality of climate change, Kaine provided a strong voice on the threats of sea level rise, and the dangers of climate denial

Yet Kaine’s senate website presents a fairly moderate position on the urgency of the climate crisis: “Scientists overwhelmingly agree human activity is contributing to climate change, and I support policies that take a balanced approach to our energy security needs by developing all our resources in a safe, smart way while being mindful of impacts on public health and the environment.”

He says he supports energy innovation, but cautions that “these changes will not happen overnight and I respect the role traditional fossil fuel industries play in providing jobs and affordable fuel for Virginians.”

Hillary Clinton’s plan for coal communities takes a slightly different tack, focusing on transitioning workers to other industries — a stance Kaine would likely adopt, as he has on TPP.

Kaine did not mention climate or energy during his convention speech, focusing on introducing himself to the rest of the nation.

On Climate, Trump Promises To Let The World BurnClimate by CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast President Obama’s climate change policies would be undone. Regulations…thinkprogress.orgGreen groups have coalesced around Clinton — some early and enthusiastically, and others over time and perhaps more in opposition to Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, at a Politico event outside the convention sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute — a fact that earned a protest from climate activists organized by Friends of the Earth Action — a Democratic governor hit Trump hard for his climate science denial.

“From the top of the Trump Tower, you can see the curvature of the Earth,” Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) said. “So why the Republicans have given us somebody who belongs to the Flat Earth Society, I don’t understand. We need to elect people who accept Newtonian physics and concepts of gravity and understand climate change.”

Donald Trump doubled down on his position, telling Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night that he “might have” called climate change a hoax, bringing up the so-called “climategate” scandal from 2009 (which had been debunked by six independent investigations as far back as 2011).

If elected president, Trump has pledged to cancel the Paris climate agreement (or at least “renegotiate” it), undo President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, save the coal industry (without any specific steps for how, exactly, he’d accomplish that), and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.