Climate Change Re-elected As Political Issue
Life doesn’t hand you many second chances to make good on promises. But that’s what the American public, with an assist from superstorm Sandy, has given President Obama: another 4-year opportunity to tackle climate change—the critical environmental issue of our time. He’s now talking about the issue again, after two years of near-silence, and just…
Life doesn’t hand you many second chances to make good on promises.
But that’s what the American public, with an assist from superstorm Sandy, has given President Obama: another 4-year opportunity to tackle climate change—the critical environmental issue of our time. He’s now talking about the issue again, after two years of near-silence, and just a few days ago spoke of “an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change.”
President Obama’s words aren’t quite as bold as those he made four years ago about attacking climate change, but they give us hope that climate change has become a politically viable issue—especially when seen in the context of the election.
One of the headlines of this election is how coal—the prime cause of man-made climate change—lost traction with voters, despite a huge influx of campaign spending by the fossil fuel industry. The industry was hoping to use coal to beat President Obama and win a Senate majority in coal states that also were swing states. In Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Montana, Democratic senators won against that onslaught of coal messaging and money. And the president won a majority in three of those states. On top of that, no senator who had voted against efforts in the Senate to strip the EPA of its ability to work on climate change ended up being punished at the polls. The coal money going into this campaign was a major effort to punish senators for voting for greenhouse gas controls and against coal and that effort failed—dramatically.
That does not mean that the prospects for major climate change legislation have changed, however. The House remains in the hands of Republicans and climate deniers.
Earthjustice will focus on defending’s what’s been done at the EPA on climate change and greenhouse gases and going to court to compel more. The unfinished business includes completing greenhouse gas pollution standards for new power plants. Getting greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants now has the prospect of getting addressed in the next couple of years. Greenhouse gas standards for oil and gas production—oil refineries, cement kilns and aviation—are in the works and we are involved in all of those issues through our legal work.
In addition, we will continue our work to retire dirty coal-fired power plants individually with dozens of those cases going on in many states.
We also are prepared to push hard for leadership from President Obama on climate change. While he has resurrected climate change as an issue, he’s also said economic growth comes first—as if we can’t have both. Moreover, we are troubled by some campaign promises he made before the votes were counted … promises to seek an “all of the above” energy policy that includes “clean” coal and oil and gas. You can’t fight climate change by investing in its causes—you must invest in its solutions.
Forceful action on climate change is a tall order, beyond what a president alone can deliver. That’s why Earthjustice will continue demanding action through the courts and advocacy on the Hill. In all ways, we will promote a clean energy future—the only solution that builds our economy while stopping the advance of climate change.
Trip Van Noppen served as Earthjustice’s president from 2008 until he retired in 2018. A North Carolina native, Trip said of his experience: “Serving as the steward of Earthjustice for the last decade has been the greatest honor of my life.”