Nationally: Despite the national shift towards more conservatives in Congress, this did not stop California from defeating Proposition 23 and saving its landmark climate legislation, one of the first policies to price carbon and promote clean energy in the U.S. Supporting more than 12,000 clean tech companies and more than 500,000 clean tech employees, as well as encouraging $10 billion in private clean tech investment, it has been a huge success and an example of how climate policy can encourage economic growth. The top three election issues seemed to be the economy, healthcare, and the size of the government. While the party in power usually loses seats in the midterms, the losses this time were pretty significant (60-70 in the House, 6-8 in the Senate). Among Democrats in close races who voted for Waxman-Markey (the climate bill that passed in the House), 61% lost the election (Source: E&E). Interestingly though, among Democrats in close races, those who voted against Waxman-Markey, 79% lost – so they did even worse. Also interesting is that 7 of the 8 Republicans who voted for Waxman-Markey got re-elected. So it looks like being a Democrat, rather than supporting climate policy, was the real fatal flaw in this election.
Midwest: Most of the newly elected Midwest Governors should be reasonably pragmatic and open-minded when it comes to clean energy, environmental protection, conservation and high-speed rail. However, the results do not bode well for support of federal climate change actions or for early movement on the Midwest Governors’ Association’s climate initiative.
Minnesota: While Democrats lost control of the state legislature and the Governor’s race is still in recount mode, we do have an opportunity to shape Minnesota’s role in growing a clean energy economy and continuing to follow California’s lead.
What’s Next for Climate?
Analysis by Think Progress found that 50% of the incoming Republican freshmen in the House and Senate deny the existence of manmade climate change, and over 86% oppose climate legislation. Ed Markey will no longer chair the House Select Committee on Global Warming and the current candidates to Chair the House Energy Committee do not believe in climate change. Only four House Republicans have made public statements affirming their trust in climate science, however none of them voted in favor of the House climate bill last year. President Obama will most likely support smaller energy packages going forward. With comprehensive climate legislation off the table, the Clean Air Act is the best tool available to move climate policies forward in the short-term. The key to keeping the Obama Administration’s new Clean Air Act regulations moving forward will be defending them against political pressure from Congress, and building a strong showing of support at the grassroots level.
What can you do?
Right now there are huge opportunities for all of us to participate in solutions by buying green energy, by getting involved in the new energy economy, and by electing public officials who are going to support that economy. Share your concerns with the media so that we are more informed and not just entertained. It’s not about whether environmentalists mustered enough public support to win on climate this past year, it’s in part about the press not telling us the truth. As more and more media let go of their environment and science reporters, political reporters are covering climate issues, and are often more interested in covering the drama and not the science.
If all this information has got you down, we really loved this piece from The Onion. Humor, sometimes, is the best strategy. Our favorite quote: “Climate change is real, and we are killing our planet more every day,” said climatologist Helen Marcus, who has made similar statements in interviews in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. “We need to make a serious effort to stop it, or, you know, we’ll all die. There really isn’t much else to say.“