Virginia governor's race shows global warming science denial is a losing political stance

פורסם: 8 בנוב׳ 2013, 5:04 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 8 בנוב׳ 2013, 5:05 ]
by John Abraham, 6 November 2013

Yesterday Virginians voted against anti-science candidate Ken Cuccinelli, showing climate realism is a winning stance

terry mcauliffe
Terry McAuliffe made climate realism a big part of his campaign, and won yesterday's election to become Virginia's new governor. Photograph: Reuters

In yesterday's Virginia governor's race, Terry McAuliffe's win over anti-science Republican Ken Cuccinelli is showing that being a climate-change denier is a losing political position. Certainly the election was about many issues, but climate change was the most striking difference between the two candidates. Virginia's voters clearly rejected Cuccinelli's attacks against climate scientists and his head-in-the-sand views.

Ken Cuccinelli has a history of not only discounting scientists but spending taxpayers' money to actively attack them. In 2010, he began a witch hunt and accused climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of fraud. In the end, Cuccinelli's crusade wasted hundreds of thousands of hard-earned taxpayer dollars – waste that Virginia voters did not forget.

As Dr. Mann himself, who campaigned for Terry McAuliffe, says,

"As discussed in some detail in my recent book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, Ken Cuccinelli, as a newly minted Attorney General of Virginia, back in early 2010, engaged in what The Washington Post called a "witch hunt" against me and the University of Virginia. He sought to abuse his authority as attorney general by demanding all of my personal emails from the six years I was a faculty member at the University of Virginia. It was clearly an ideological crusade aimed at finding something in my personal emails to try to embarrass me or discredit me and my research, in particular the "Hockey Stick" graph I published a decade and a half ago. This graph added to the overwhelming evidence that human activity in the form of fossil fuel burning is changing our climate in dramatic and likely adverse ways.

Cuccinelli is a climate change denier whose campaigns are substantially funded by fossil fuel companies. He has close relationships with individuals like the Koch Brothers, who have spent tens of millions of dollars in a massive climate change denial disinformation campaign. There could be no greater contrast between an anti-science zealot like Ken Cuccinelli who sees scientific research as something to be attacked when it doesn't comport with his ideological viewpoints and the powerful vested interests who fund his campaigns, and someone like Terry McAuliffe. Mr. McAuliffe sees science and technological innovation as something to incentivize and grow the economy. So campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, and against Ken Cuccinelli, for Governor of Virginia was a no-brainer for me."

Perhaps this wasteful use of time and money to attack scientists was remembered by voters yesterday. It is hard to say, but there is more to consider behind the scenes. It turns out that while Ken Cuccinelli was well financed by fossil fuel organizations, Terry McAuliffe received funding from many environmental organizations. Reports even show that Terry McAuliffe's environmental funding exceeded Cuccinelli's fossil fuel support. Support to environmentally aware candidates comes not just with funds, but also with "boots on the ground" and ad spending.

In another example, Jay Inslee from Washington state is perhaps the most ardent supporter of tackling climate change. Inslee won a gubernatorial election last year. Other pro-science, pro-environmental candidates are showing that climate realism can be a winning issue. It wins with the public and it wins with large donors. Let's hope that the anti-science crowd recognizes this and drops their quest to continue unabated greenhouse pollution. It is out of step with Americans, and these elections show it.

There is a smaller issue here that must be recognized. In the recent past, being anti-environment was a litmus test for Republican candidates in the United States. Any Republican seeking elected office had to hide their concern for the environment in order to appeal to the more strident party faithful. This tacking to the right was evidenced by John McCain and Mitt Romney, both of whom, prior to running for President, had had respectable environmental credentials. Heck, even Newt Gringrich once cared about climate change! This is really too bad because the Republican Party has had a long history of environmental conservation.

But all isn't lost. Recent polls show that most Republicans recognize that climate change is happening. Only the Tea Partiers continue to live in denial. If enough conservatives view anti-science, anti-environmental stances as a losing proposition, then maybe, just maybe, this once grand old party can re-establish itself as a protector of the planet for our current and future welfare. We can only hope.