Vote: Climate Change Matters

It’s morning in America and hopefully you’re off to the polls. What’s at stake for climate change? Quite a bit actually. When polls close tonight, the climate change landscape will likely be drastically altered and not in a good way.

Republicans have certainly succeeded in running on a platform of out with old and in with the new. Sadly, their “new” ideas come from the Stone Age. Candidates have denied its existence and threatened to terrorize climate scientists if they win.

Remember the warm and fuzzy days when there was hope for a bipartisan energy bill in the Senate less than a year ago? Or when John McCain, running for President just two years ago, acknowledged the gravity of climate change? Heck, climate change legislation even made it through a House vote all the way back in June 2009.

Feels like ancient history, doesn’t it? Republican Lindsey Graham walked away from the bipartisan climate bill he was crafting with John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman. McCain now questions the science. And the Waxman-Markey is dead without a Senate counterpart.

Trial by Climate

Nowadays California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may be the last Republican standing to accept the science and even voice support for climate change legislation. His reward? He’s been demonized in California by lobbyists of the coal and oil industries trying to pass Proposition 23 in California. The ballot measure would essentially kill California’s already-in-existence Global Warming Solutions Act. The current legislation represents a path to a low carbon economy by proposing to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Though Prop 23 is a California initiative, its passage will have national repercussions. If it passes, it will certainly demoralize environmentalists across the country. It will also make state legislators in more moderate or conservative states think twice about putting forward climate or energy legislation.

On the bright side, it looks like Prop 23 is unlikely to pass. This is no small part due to a major influx of money from venture capitalists who are already financing major clean tech projects in the state. Though their choice might be based more economics than the environment, but it seems like money going in the right direction for a change. Hopefully it’ll also provide a positive note for environmentalists to latch onto and possibly show how to build a strong coalition of climate change campaigners and funders.

(Inter)National Implications

Republicans are very likely to regain control of the House. With control of the House comes leadership of important legislative committees.

That means goodbye Democrat Henry Waxman leading the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Hello Republican Cliff Stearns. If Stearns becomes the chairman, it’ll be a pretty useless committee. He’s said he can’t think of a single energy proposal he might agree with Democrats on. This means even the hope of passing “chunks” of climate legislation like Obama suggested to Rolling Stone two months ago is pretty much gone.

In addition to the legislative process, Republicans will also be able to launch investigations at will. Representative Darrel Issa is set to chair the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Turns out he also dabbles in necromancy. He plans to resurrect Climategate from the dead.

Apparently the multiple independent investigations that exonerated scientists weren’t good enough. Issa hopes to use committee chairmanship to figure out what those sneaky climate scientists are really up to. This is the definition of a witch hunt. Scientists like Michael Mann and others involved in the tempest in a teapot are already seeking advice from lawyers in preparation for the war of words to come. They should probably also find a good PR person.

Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, will likely be spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill in the next two years. Republicans have said they want to keep her and the EPA busy defending themselves rather than using the agency’s 2009 endangerment finding on carbon dioxide to regulate greenhouse gases. Talk about laying an agenda out in the open.

So what does it all mean for you, dear reader? Climate change hasn’t been a front page topic this election cycle. Jobs, healthcare reform, and even the Islamic community center at Ground Zero have all been much more prevalent. But it doesn’t mean that the results of the election won’t affect what happens with legislation and federal action in general.

Your vote for progressive candidates matters quite a bit, despite what the media might make you believe. So please go vote for the sake of this country and the Earth.

Photo Credit: Flickr