October 24, 2012
by Mark Dunlea
Green Party’s Stein Climate Change Agenda ignored by national environmental groups
Environmental groups have been complaining in the media that the words “climate change” were not mentioned in the recent Presidential debates.
What the environmental groups should be complaining about is what Obama and Romney have said about climate change.
And they should be concerned enough about climate change to publicize that there is a national Presidential candidate talking about climate change, the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The Green New Deal, the cornerstone of her campaign, calls for a massive investment in renewable energy and sustainability, an investment that also creates a public jobs program to put the 25 million un- and under-employed Americans to work.
The silence of climate change activists to alternatives to the corporate-dominated political parties merely rewards the Democrats strategy of evading the climate change issue, because, after all, “where are environmentalists going to go”?
Obama and Romney have competed in their televised debates to so who is one most supportive of developing new oil and natural gas resources. They argued over whether or not Obama had reduced access to drilling for fossil fuels on public lands. Obama wants a $5 billion investments in “clean coal” and chastised Romney for statements he made while Governor about the need to ensure that emissions from a Massachusetts coal plant did not “kill people.”
Obama’s energy strategy is not about reducing the use of fossil fuels, rather it is about increasing American’s domestic supply of fossil fuels. So rather than articulate the Bush doctrine of “war for oil” (though he did invade Libya), energy “independence” has become Obama’s campaign slogan.
Bill McKibben of 350.org points out that we need some “new math” in the climate change fight. The bottom line is that we have five times as much oil and coal and gas available as climate scientists say that the atmosphere can tolerate. So rather than promoting “Drill Baby Drill” to find new domestic fossil fuel sources, we must keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away safely underground to avoid a climate disaster.
Despite the BP fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama has supported increased off shore drilling for oil. In January 2012, he announced that he will open more than 75% of potential offshore oil and gas resources to exploration. Obama did later back off a bit, and has delayed offshore oil development along the Atlantic coast. But in September 2012, Obama gave Shell Oil initial approval to begin dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska.
Obama has promoted the hydrofracking of natural gas, ignoring the public health concerns about the technology, such as air and water pollution. Supporters of natural gas point out that it releases only about half the carbon emissions as coal when burned. But natural gas is primarily methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Stein supports reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to below 350 ppm. She supports an annual fund of several hundred billion dollars to invest in clean renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal), public transportation and organic agriculture. It will be funded via taxes on the windfall profits of fossil fuel companies, major cuts in the military budget, a rising fee on carbon emissions, and an end to subsidies on fossil fuels and nuclear power plants.
Stein will shut all oil, coal and nuclear plants by 2025. Dr. Stein supports banning mountaintop removal coal mining, the hydrofracking of natural gas and the development of the tar sands oil and Keystone XL. Jill Stein will stop oil drilling off shore, on public lands, under the Great Lakes and in the Arctic.
Climate change advocates defend their silence on Stein’s position by arguing that she has no chance of winning – though she is on the ballot in enough states to be elected. It is the Catch 22 dilemma. But the lesser-of-two-evils strategy allows the Democrats to ignore issues such as climate change, the environment, poverty, hunger, etc. The best that climate change activists can hope for is that Obama has been lying to the American people about his energy policies.
Obama has taken some positive steps on climate change – almost all by EPA, an agency not feeling much love from either major party at the moment. Such as raising mileage standards for vehicles and rules on carbon and mercury. Obama did increase investments in renewable energy as part of his economic stimulus plan, but way short of what was needed to make a real impact. Obama also delayed approval for the Keystone XL pipeline – but over environmental concerns over its route, not its climate change implications. That fight continues.
When the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, Obama failed to provide leadership to pass climate change legislation. Stein criticizes the House bill (Waxman-Markey) as weak and inadequate, a view shared by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Obama did nothing with the Senate.
Obama has not only failed to provide leadership on international action on climate change but has continued the Clinton-Bush approach of being the major impediment to such progress.
Climate change is the gravest environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever faced. It is time for environmentalists to have the courage to speak truth to power and stop sanctioning the lack of action by the Democrats.
Mark Dunlea is President of Green Education and Legal Fund Inc. Executive Director of Hunger Action Network. Author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President.