Many climate hawk voters flocked to Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primaries, drawn to the Vermont senator’s call for a WWII-scale mobilization to save human civilization from catastrophic climate change. But where will Sanders supporters go now that Hillary Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee in the race for the White House against Donald Trump, who says that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese?
Some climate hawks are swooping to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who is calling for a Green New Deal to revitalize the American economy and reverse global warming. But many climate hawks are perched on the fence post, occassionally circling high above the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, waiting for a signal from Clinton that she will join them in the fight to protect human civilization and the natural world from the climate disruption that threatens our way of life.
Clinton is speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday as she accepts the nomination as the first female to lead a major party presidential ticket. So what could she say to win over climate hawk voters? What policy positions could she stake out that would signal to climate hawks that she is serious about addressing climate change?
“This election is about climate change, the great environmental crisis facing our planet,” Sanders said Monday night in Philadelphia. “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, rising sea levels. … Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the profits of the fossil fuel industry.”
CALL CLIMATE CHANGE OUR GREATEST THREAT
At the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas last October, Sanders called climate change the greatest threat to national security while Clinton said nuclear weapons are the biggest security threat facing the country. While the nuclear threat is very real and should be taken seriously, that stance won’t win over climate hawks. Clinton could take a cue from the Democratic Party platform that was just ratified — the strongest climate platform ever. The platform recognizes climate change as “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time” and declares the United States must take the lead in “forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis.” The platform even calls for the WWII-scale mobilization that Sanders mentioned during his campaign:
We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II. In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.
Clinton simply needs to take this language adopted in the party platform and explain it to the American people. That her administration will take immediate and unprecedented action on climate change as soon as she is settled in the Oval Office.
PLEDGE TO BAN FRACKING
The evidence is becoming clearer that fracked natural gas is not a bridge to a clean energy future, but, as environmental activist Bill McKibben says, is “a costly detour.” Promoting natural gas is simply incompatable with U.S. climate targets. According to McKibben, because of methane leaks from natural gas, “it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years.” Clinton now has some political cover to come out against natural gas because of such a strong party platform that pledges to institute a “climate test” on federal infrastructure projects. There is just no way that fracked natural gas, mined coal or extracted oil can ever meet realistic targets to prevent runaway global warming that were agreed to at the Paris climate talks. Just as President Obama explained that the “climate test” is the reason he rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, Clinton can use this key part of the Democratic platform when she is challenged on decisions to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
SUPPORT PRICE ON CARBON
By not including a carbon tax in her ambitious climate action plan, Clinton is going directly against her own party platform, which calls for a price on carbon to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here is the language in the party platform:
Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.
Sanders supports a carbon fee and dividend and if Clinton came around to the position of Sanders and the Democratic Party it would bring more climate hawks to her campaign.
MOVE UP 100% CLEAN ENERGY AND ZERO EMISSIONS TARGETS
One area where Clinton could actually go beyond the bold commitments in the Democratic Party platform is with clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions. Clinton has already called to increase American solar power 700 percent by 2027. Clinton wants to deploy half a billion solar panels by the end of her first term and enough clean energy to provide electricity to every home in the United States within 10 years. The platform calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and getting 50 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources within a decade. Why not go beyond these commitments? Clinton could move up the targets to align with what the science says needs to be done to avert dangerous global warming. How about announcing a commitment to 100 percent clean energy and net zero emissions by 2030?
PROMOTE ECOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS TO CLIMATE CHANGE
There is increasing acknowledgement that technological solutions will not be enough to reverse global warming and that existing atmospheric carbon must be drawn down to get to pre-industrial levels of 280 parts per million that has allowed civilization and the natural world to flourish in a safe and stable climate. More climate activists are coming around to the view that restoring ecosystems is an important part, perhaps the most important part, of solving climate change. Clinton could announce a restructuring of the federal government to promote regenerative agriculture, also known as carbon farming, as imperative to sequestering carbon safely in the soil.
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