Last week's election will have major consequences for U.S. climate and energy policy. Republicans won a net victory of 60 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, and at least 6 governorships. A number of climate champions lost tight races to candidates who deny climate science, but in California's Prop 23, the only race with global warming on the ballot, climate won by a decisive margin.
Election day 2010 is over, but the fight to address climate change is not -- so say many of the bloggers posting since Tuesday's election. We survived the Senate's inability to pass climate change legislation before the election recess. We survived attacks against the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases (so far). And we can and will survive the loss of a pro-climate majority in the House of Representatives.
Janelle Corn, Ph.D., is an ecologist and wildlife biologist living in western Montana. She has lived and worked in the western U.S. for 30 years, and is currently an activist for addressing climate change before it's too late. Her new blog is Natural History Now. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.
Young voters celebrated a decisive victory against Big Oil by defeating a deceptive ballot measure, Prop 23. The initiative, funded with millions of dollars from oil corporations, sought to wreck California's clean energy economy and effectively repeal the state’s landmark clean air and clean energy laws.
The dust from yesterday's election is settling and it's already clear that we're about to have the most pro-dirty energy Congress we've seen in a long time. As you'd expect, dirty energy companies and their allies are already spinning this election in the press as a rejection of climate and clean energy legislation.
This spin is outrageous, and it's our job to push back.
From where I stand it's very simple: Big Oil and Dirty Coal spent a fortune to swing this election, and last night they got exactly what they paid for.
If you remember nothing else about Election 2010, remember this: Big Oil and Dirty Coal have spent $70 million on energy-related attack ads this election cycle and put $20 million directly into the pockets of their allies running for Congress. That's on top of the $500 million they've already spent on lobbying in the past two years.
Now that they've bought themselves a new Congress more to their liking, big polluters will try to spin this election as an endorsement of dirty energy. But they can't change the fact that the American people overwhelmingly support policies that cut climate pollution and create new jobs in a clean energy economy. They can't spin away the strength of the climate movement, either. The 10/10/10 Global Work Parties showed just how big and vibrant the climate movement really is, while the defeat of Prop 23 in California showed how this movement can lead voters to vote their hopes, not their fears.
The battle for what will become the "conventional wisdom" in the press about yesterday's election is on-- and we can't allow Big Oil and Dirty Coal to spin this election as a legitimate victory for them. That's why we're asking all our supporters to write their local newspapers and tell them how big polluters bought this election -- and that it can't happen again.
Now that the election is behind us, many of us in the climate movement will focus much of our energy on pushing the Obama Administration and Congress to use the Clean Air Act to cut global warming pollution and jump start investments in clean energy. We will also push the Administration to support strong climate financing at the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Cancún.
I know that a Congress with so many more climate deniers and tools of dirty polluters is discouraging, but now is not the time for anyone in the climate movement to give up. I personally remember the dark days after the 1994 election, and how we banded together to defend the health of our environment and communities from dirty polluters and their friends in Congress. If we could do it then, we can certainly do it again by joining forces and fighting as hard as we possibly can.
Climate change is escalating even as we keep falling behind much of the world in the race to build clean energy economies. As a movement, we have no choice but to keep fighting. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
Today's elections will have major implications for our work on federal climate and energy policy. Elections are being held for all 435 House seats, 37 Senate seats, and 37 governorships. With many races polling at slim margins, voter turnout is expected to make or break the election for many candidates.
Election Day: Tuesday, November 2nd
Overall Election Outlook:
Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight model projects the following election day outcomes based on recent polling:
A 91% chance that the Senate will remain in Democratic control. Polls suggest the most likely outcome is a seven-seat swing, resulting in a 52-48 Democratic Senate;
An 84% chance that the House will flip toward Republican control. Polls suggest the most likely outcome is a 52-seat swing (Republicans need 38 for a majority) resulting in a 232-203 Republican House (the House is currently 255-178).
Stressing uncertainty in the models, and the competitiveness of this year's races, Nate Silver notes a number of caveats in his forecasts, stressing uncertainty on both sides of the equation:
If polls are off by just a couple of percentage points, the Democrats may keep the House and a substantial Senate majority;
Who owns our democracy: Big Business or We the People?
Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there's been an unprecedented amount of outside spending during the 2010 mid-term elections, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups. Right-wing groups have spent $169.2 million so far -- up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 8.5). Analysis from Center for American Progress notes that more than $68 million of outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like Big Oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.
It’s impossible to look past the corporate influence in this election cycle -- brought on by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- from big polluters and climate science deniers. It's glaring even at the state level: Out of eight Northeast states with contested governor's races, only Vermont has a race where both candidates affirm climate science. Anti-climate candidates in these key states could roll back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or state renewable energy standards.
There’s no sugarcoating the chances for future comprehensive climate policy in the next two years. In fact, we anticipate an all-out attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act by several House and Senate members.
But anger and despair can’t lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement. Why?
Recent polling consistently shows an 11-point spread against California Proposition 23. Getting the vote out in California is crucial to defeating both Prop 23 and Prop 26 at the polls and widening a margin that only a month ago favored Big Oil.
Climate champions like Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) are all committed to pushing for climate-related legislation next year. Waxman told Politico: "I think the issue is becoming more and more serious and people are realizing it, which I hope will increase the pressure on the Congress to take the actions we need to.”
Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room outlines 15 House races and six Senate races where climate heroes are running against climate deniers. These are races in which candidates need to hear that climate is still an issue.
More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we’re doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!