By Jong Chin – 7/15/15
We’ve been in our Manchester office for just over a week and we’ve already started pushing the presidential candidates with questions on climate. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Last Wednesday, we wrapped up our trainings and hit the road for our first birddog event – a community event in Concord, NH for Governor O’Malley’s presidential campaign. A month before, world leaders had reaffirmed the 2 degrees limit to climate change, a target that would require 80% of fossil fuels being kept in the ground. Considering 70% of U.S. fossil fuels are in public lands, we were curious whether Gov. O’Malley had a stance on extracting fossil fuels from public lands. To which he said – “I am inclined to not extract from public lands” – not quite a firm stance, but a step forward from his previous plan to merely tax any extraction from public lands (and many steps past Secretary Clinton, who hasn’t even committed to blocking KXL or Arctic Drilling).
The spectre of fossil fuel money in politics as a whole – and especially the 2016 presidential elections – casts a long shadow (the Koch brothers are planning to spend more than the Democratic and Republican parties combined this election cycle).
Last Friday, we posed the question of whether fossil fuel money influences Republican climate denial to Sen. Lindsey Graham who dodged answering the question directly, but affirmed that campaign finance reform must come. We also asked Sen. Graham, one of the few non-deniers in the Republican party, his thoughts on denial in general – to which he said “The science is sound to me. How you solve it is a debate, not whether or not it’s a problem” – and as a follow up, his thoughts on what the solution would look like – he suggested an all of the above (aka, a non-solution that borders on denial).
Perhaps learning from Sen. Graham’s half-denial, things got a little more direct this Monday when we asked Gov. John Kasich whether he knew “that young people are not impressed with candidates that pay lip service on the issue of climate change without making commitments to do something about it”. He too presented a new breed of denial, accepting climate change but rejecting the science that shows that we have #keepitintheground – suggesting that although humans have a bit of impact, the climate change we’re seeing is mostly just part of a natural cycle.
We’ve got some work to do on both fronts. The Democrats for the most part, have quite a bit to go before having strong enough platforms on climate. The Republicans seem to be in disarray around climate – none seem certain as to the best method of denial.
But that’s ok – we have some time to work with, and a lot of events to go to, including a couple Clinton and a couple Walker events on Thursday. We’ll keep you posted on those.