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Clean Power US power generation sources, 2014 (https://nextgenclimate.global.ssl.fastly.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/cleanenergyreport.pdf)

Published on July 24th, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert

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Climate Change Issues May Decide 2016 US Election (VIDEO)

July 24th, 2015 by  


Today, Tom Steyer, president and 2013 founder of the NextGen Climate group, challenged American politicians to step up to the plate when it comes to climate change. He called on 2016 US election candidates and current elected officials to address the subject directly and lay out plans to power the US with more than 50% clean energy by 2030, creating impetus for a completely clean energy economy by 2050.

US power generation sources, 2014 (https://nextgenclimate.global.ssl.fastly.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/cleanenergyreport.pdf)

Steyer says that to prevent climate disaster, strengthen the US economy, and create jobs, “Our country needs bold leaders who will lay out a plan to achieve more than 50% clean energy by 2030.”

Like many others, Steyer feels that strong leadership is lacking among presidential candidates for the 2016 US election, especially on the Republican side. The NextGen news release mentions Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz in particular. The handwriting is writ large upon the wall about politics and climate change. Here are some potent reasons why candidates should take stands:

  • Bloomberg, reporting the results of a new Quinnipiac poll today: “A clear majority of voters in the crucial presidential election swing states of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia agree with Pope Francis’ call to action on the issue of climate change.”
  • ABC News/Washington Post poll (Langer Research), April 3, 2015: “Americans by 59-31% say they want the next president to be someone who favors government action to address climate change, and 58 percent call it an important issue.”
  • NYTimes/Stanford University poll, January 2015: “An overwhelming majority of the American public, including half of Republicans, support government action to curb Climate Change, and two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.”
  • Benenson Strategy Group, January 2015: “72 percent of likely 2016 voters said they support the United States signing on to an international agreement on climate change.”
  • The Hill, a a top US political website based in DC and read by the White House and more lawmakers than any other site, quotes a poll conducted by Hart Research last October: 54% of the eligible voters surveyed across five swing states (Colorado, New Hampshire, Michigan, Iowa, and North Carolina) are more likely to vote for a candidate that wants to fight climate change.

NextGen also previews the results of one of its latest surveys, soon to be published, in which 69% of voters in eight battleground states respond favorably to powering America with more than 50% clean energy by 2030 and a completely clean energy economy by 2050. Only 8% responded unfavorably.

Among the other main points Steyer’s organization relates:

“The power grid and American businesses are already shifting towards clean, low-cost energy sources…. But the deck is still stacked against clean energy and the economic growth it can spur—government subsidies and preferential treatment for fossil fuel polluters stifle innovation and slow our shift away from the outdated energy sources of the past.”

NextGen says that the president determined by the 2016 US election must act boldly to accelerate the transition to clean energy. “Just as computers and the internet revolutionized our economy over the past few decades, economists and scientists say that moving to clean energy sources will create jobs, save lives by reducing pollution, and drive the kind of economic growth that benefits all Americans. The global race for climate solutions and clean energy is already underway. The question for the public is whether the United States will seize this opportunity to lead, or be left behind as other nations reap the economic benefits.”

For reference, the current US climate pledge before the United Nations is a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025. The official submission states: “This target is consistent with a straight-line emission reduction pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80% or more by 2050.” From this perspective, Steyer’s proposed goal represents a much faster emissions decrease between now and 2030 than already planned, resulting in a 20% unmet need by 2050.

Rhea Suh of the often critical Natural Resources Defense Council finds the existing US INDC attainable, even possibly exceedable, although it “will require several critical steps.” The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the Clean Power Plan can propel the United States toward a 43% clean energy target (using wind, solar, hydro, and existing nuclear) by 2030. “A target of more than 50% clean energy by 2030 will require full implementation of the Clean Power Plan,” the agency says, “as well as new policies and investments in clean energy to accelerate this much-needed transition.”

Also, NextGen Climate presents a compelling economic case for clean energy in a white paper accompanying Steyer’s news release. The PDF publicationThe Economic Case For Clean Energy, demonstrates how the energy transition has already begun and strongly advises US leaders to seize the opportunity and actively promote policies that build on emergent clean energy.

See CleanTechnica’s companion article (“Clean Energy Gives Rise To Robust Economies”) for a summary of the white paper and the four main reasons why US leaders should act, and quickly.





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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."



  • wattleberry

    One thing has to work for America. It’s probably at the national equivalent age of 18 now so is growing up.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    Here’s some good GW science to send around for the 2016 election:
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/mighty-mammoths-fell-prey-to-rapidly-warming-earth/ar-AAdunCA?ocid=HPCDHP

    I don’t know about you guys, but I weigh more than 99 pounds.

  • Daniel

    Most people wouldn’t care about ‘climate change’ if it hit them with a brick.
    It wouldn’t be mentioned. Even when the effects really start to kick in, people will relate it to either religious reasons (God is angry), or HAARP/lizard people conspiracies. Most people are dumb.

  • Matthew Rose

    Willingness of the co-opted corporate media publishing right-wing fear campaign will decide the 2016 election.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That worked well for them in 2008 and 2012 didn’t it?

      • Matthew Rose

        Successful fear campaigns worked very well in 1994, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2014. In local election years, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013. They have an amazingly successful track record.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Fear campaigns work for the sort of people who tend to vote in midterms. The left screwed up in 2010 and 2014 by not bothering to vote.

          The younger people who will be the most hurt by climate change really screwed up by staying home.

          • Matthew Rose

            Fear works to right-wingers favor in two ways, it convinces people to vote to the right or drive people from the polls. Tactics changes with each situation.

            When the left has a single victory, prior to fixing the mess republicans created, the narrative is “the left is destroying the country”. Which is different from “the left is soft on crime”, different from “the left is weak on terror” & “taking your guns”; or “the left wants a welfare state”, “tax and spend”, “redistribution of wealth”, “killing grandma”. All of which is nonsense, but what the corporate media runs with. It is all psychological warfare against the American people, for benefit of the 1%.

            The ‘liberal media’ gives disproportionate voice to the right-wingers, nearly every issue is framed by the right. Even when proven wrong, no airtime to the truth, no effort to undo the
            damage done. Never calling out right-wing lies. The take the narrative
            and run with and never look back.

            There is a virtual lack of a liberal voice receive airtime, let alone permitted to frame an issue.

            Considering this article is about Climate Change, every effort is deliberately/maliciously skewed to the right: lack of science correspondents, editors, producers (arguments out of ignorance); advertisers, right-wing executives & board members; equal time to opposition if facts, corporate lobbyists, right-wing pundits, non-scientists,…; providing an incomplete narrative and/or taking information taken out of context.

            The opposition plays a well financed long game. Empowering churches to build armies of ignorance and a pulpit to shout from.

            A rational, fact based society can’t sensationalize facts as the opposition does to lies. The very idea of it undermines the truth.

          • Ross

            The young are missing a trick. The old know this and turn out to ensure generational wealth transfer from future generations to them continues.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The current generation of oldies supported the generation that came before them and raised the generation that came after.

            They paid it forward and backward. That’s how it works. Don’t expect them to sit home and have greedy youngers snatch away their safety nets.

          • Ross

            They didn’t have enough kids so the next generation can’t afford to look after them and pay for their own retirement and raise the next generation which is even smaller.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Kids?

            We’re talking Social Security and Medicare.

            You want to go into your dotage barebacked?

          • Ross

            I’m talking about the boomer population bulge and am not saying voting in their interest isn’t a rational choice for them. It is likely that the generation after them will not be as well off.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Boomers and ‘the silent generation’ got to live in what was likely America’s wealthiest period. They made the mistake of not protecting middle class and working class incomes.

            Younger folks need to get off their butts and make some changes or get smoked. Can’t sit in the coffee shop/wherever on election day during the mid-terms and expect someone else to do your voting for you.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Obama wasn’t planned. 2016 will be very interesting. Republicans should have easily won in 2012. They blew it. So far 2016 is shaping up similarly. I’ve particularly enjoyed Trump’s contributions. Dems don’t have Obama. We’ll see.

        • Ross

          Trump makes me think Bush wasn’t that bad and he was a disaster for the world.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Well there’s:
            1. the entertainment value
            2. the paint the GOP black value
            If Trump makes it to the primary… nah

          • Ross

            Trump would be great fodder for comedians and I have faith in the American people to not elect him.

        • Keanwood

          Why should 2012 have been a easy Republican victory? Incumbents are incredibly difficult to beat. And Obama was always going to do better with the Black and Hispanic vote then Romney could even dream of. Polls had Obama ahead almost the entire election cycle.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Well maybe you’re right and I’m wrong. The GOP did pick an elitist and alienate hispanics.

            If you remember back then, most people were still not seeing much in the way of economic recovery. I figure the incumbent is going to be fired if this is the case …unless the opposition party doesn’t offer a realistic alternative.

            Maybe we were both right. Maybe it will happen that way again. 😉

          • Keanwood

            Hopefully it does happen again 🙂

  • JamesWimberley

    Pew surveys (link) consistently show that Americans would like to see stronger action against climate disruption. They equally consistently show that the issue ranks very low among their concerns: well behind the economy and jobs, which is understandable, and the threat of terrorism, which is objectively tiny.

    Some of the survey data here suggests that climate may be moving up the list. But generally, distrust all polls that don’t ask “compared to other things.”

    http://www.people-press.org/2015/01/15/publics-policy-priorities-reflect-changing-conditions-at-home-and-abroad/1-15-2015-priorities_01/

    Democratic candidates can only make climate a winning issue by embedding it in a wider narrative of hope and progress for ordinary Americans.

    • one4All

      Unfortunately polls reflect primarily how effective the Propaganda machine has been on the issue being polled. The Fossil Fuel Industry is spending an Estimated 1 Billion Dollars a Year to convince the Gullible that Al Gore is a Hoax on Fox News so that the electorate will not notice that their Representatives have been purchased outright. We probably can’t match their cash – but we have God and the Pope on our side.

    • Ross

      The terrorist threat is so low that it might be cheaper to absorb the occasional attacks and redirect the resources to fighting climate change. More lives would be saved ultimately than checking grannies shoes.

      • Bob_Wallace

        That’s too rational.

        Will never fly….

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Terroist threat is so low, that threat from other nut cases with guns is far higher.

      • Matthew Rose

        right-wing terror is a very real thing in this country. Roving bands of gun-nuts, the overly armed society, by intimidation. Unaccountable police killing unarmed citizens. White people politically, right-wing, racists, escape being defined as thugs, terrorists, criminals,… regardless of the the damage done or the heinous of their crime.

  • Keanwood

    I have 5 crisp $1 bills that says climate change in 2016 is talked about as much as it was in 2012. Essentially no talking at all.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “at all”?

      Come on, let’s step away from the hyperbole faucet….

      • Keanwood

        Alright I admit that “at all” was to strong of a phrase. I’m sure the conversation will come up.

        I’ll try again. I don’t see climate change being addressed in any of the 3 general election debates. Renewables will only be mentioned if the question of ‘energy independence’ comes up. And climate change won’t be a central pillar of any general campaign.

        I hope I’m wrong.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I don’t expect to hear much about climate change in the presidential race.
          The Democratic candidates will say a little about stopping it to select audiences and the Republican candidates will say some version of “It’s a commie plot to steal your children” to select audiences.

          Climate change, I don’t think, is an issue that will bring a lot of the middle to the polls.

          Realistically, if we want more political action on climate change then we have to keep the White House in Democratic hands and return control of Congress to the Democrats.

          Our real hope is in the economics of renewable energy. Salvation via big business.

          • Keanwood

            I wholeheartedly agree.

          • wildisreal

            I don’t consider myself in the middle, rather off to the side. I suspect those that share this categorization are a plurality; the “middle” in American politics is a myth.

            Renewable economics are here now, and handy, but not sufficient. The moral case against fossil fuels is also necessary. Cleantech cannot count on political salvation through big business opportunity alone. The powerful enemy runs that club and will continue to until the moral argument scares politicians.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Pay attention to what is happening. Renewable generation installation is growing exponentially. The bottom has fallen out from underneath the coal industry.

            The fossil fuel industry was able to slow things down for a while but now wind and solar are becoming the new big businesses. They produce revenue for states and create jobs.

            We’re about two years away from longer range EVs priced at about the average new car price. That will start tearing the supports out from under oil and oil’s collapse will accelerate as EV prices fall further.

            There’s huge money to be made in wind, solar, EVs and storage. Big money is now smelling opportunity.

          • wildisreal

            I am well aware of solar’s pricing revolution and growth rates having been in the business since 2008. It is extraordinary what has been accomplished and on many days I am also awash in euphoria for the better days ahead of average people powering their lives and fueling from their roof. TWO monopolies gone! I agree, in many ways, this vision is already here.

            I also see the dead trees around my mountain home, notice odd weather patterns, was rained on at 12,000 feet last January, and pay a fair amount of attention to climate science. This yields impatience with the utilities, auto companies, and their fossil fuel homies who are now scared yes, but have not lost power. Reference the critical net metering battles spread across the country.

            I believe the moral arguments for a stable climate, cleaner air, greater independence, community resilience (plus higher home values and lower auto repair costs of course) are essential to truly move the meter and accelerate change in policy to the degree needed. The Encyclical and divestment movements will play a major role in the cleantech revolution. Humans respond to the heart more than the brain.

            The numbers are on our side yes but a great deal of wealth needs to be transferred from the status quo to new-grid infrastructure and some money will need to go *poof* in the form of stranded assets. This will only be justified by strong policymakers (true leaders) with people constantly reminding them morality has their back.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I also look out at dead and dying trees and we had no snow here during the last two winters (extremely unusual).

            But concern over a changing climate is not going to drive us to eliminate fossil fuels rapidly enough to save our ecosystems. It’s sad, but it’s a fact.

            In the US we have allowed our political system to be taken over by the cost of running campaigns. Until we deal with campaign financing our politicians, good and bad, will be forced to seek massive amounts of money and it’s the rich people (and corporations) that have money.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            …and no morals.

          • Bob_Wallace

            How about we don’t paint all with a very broad brush?

            Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Tom Steyer are billionaires and are putting their wealth to work making the world better.

            Not every rich person is a Koch.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Good point. Thank you.
            Still, this is generally not the case. A lot of wealth is tied up in oil, coal, NG, and ICEVs. Those incumbents are not real open minded about changing this. Obama has done wonders for RE in the US. We could easily have a republican pres next and a roll back of some RE progress. Good news is it’s a Global phenomena and FF cannot stop RE progress everywhere.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The fossil fuel industry is not stopping REs and EVs in the US. It’s slowing things down in a few countries, Australia is where they are being most successful at the moment.

            But what will drive decisions is economics. Fossil fuels have lost most of their competitive advantage. Renewables are becoming ‘big business’ and are starting to wield political power.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I agree 100%. I’ll be watching to see if FF can pull a similar slow down to Australia in the US. I’ll be voting to prevent. Even in Australia FF are losing the game. Climate change and the better economics of RE is already a significant (major?) election issue for 2016 in Australia.
            I’m surprised the US GOP is learning nothing from this. Very short sighted of them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The fossil fuel industry has tried to shut down renewables in the US and has failed. Luckily our best wind resources are found in some of most conservative states. Those states have made money and enjoyed job creation thanks to wind.

            Now solar is starting to make big inroads into some of the more conservative states. Fossil fuels have lost their ability to stop renewables.

          • Matt

            There is a slim chance that GOP might come out in favor of wind. Most of the big wind states have GOP governments. Plus wind is big $ to set up so is owned by corps. So they might decide that it is in there interest to show leadership in job creation, energy diversity and independence.

          • Ross

            They should be able to count the cost on their business of a world being hit by massive climate change and decide that a more profitable strategy is to support efforts to head off the problem.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Not yet apparently. Incumbents are often slaves to denial and paradigms of past. It’s coming.

            In the mean time money is clearly starting to shift to RE …where current profitability is …and even more so in the future.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I agree with you in theory and really wish you were right. In reality politicians and corporations do not generally have morals. The FF industry has unfortunately been somewhat effective in spreading disinformation on AGW, EVs, Solar, Wind, etc.

            I live in the Seattle area. Extremely low snow pack in the Cascade and Olympic mountains this year. Record hot and dry in June. Just listened to two coworkers talking about how this was just part of natural climate cycles. Think they want the government to spend more on RE? Nope, still too expensive. They’re wrong, but they don’t know that. Faux news and even some WSJ articles support them in this view.

            Have hope though. The republicans threw the last election and could do it again. Even if we get a Tony Abbott style moron, it will only be for 4 years and the case for renewables and EVs will continue to build globally. We’re not dead yet, the economic trends are clear, and money does talk. 😉

          • Bob_Wallace

            Humans, I fear, have evolved to be much more attentive to short term dangers than long term dangers. Starving to death, getting eaten by the wild beast growling at you – those sorts of things take precedence over whether the current supply of flint will run out in a few decades.

            I doubt we’ll see enormous public pressure to deal with climate change until things get much worse. We may have to see some coastal cities abandoned before people go into the streets demanding action.

            Politicians are helping some. I think even many Republican office holders are working quietly to assist renewable energy. The Republican controlled Senate Finance Committee just included continued subsidies for wind.

            If we had to depend on the public and on the people they elect I’d be pessimistic. But the rapidly falling prices of RE and storage makes me somewhat optimistic.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            I agree on short horizon problem.

            Think a few republicans have come around on wind, fewer on solar, due to undeniably better economics, not AGW really. Certainly ridiculous GOP rhetoric is problem for those repubs who are “working quietly” …God bless them for their efforts …and it will be so.

          • Keanwood

            I really do wonder. How many Republicans in the house/Senate and 2016 candidates who publicly deny climate science actually believe that? I mean at least in the Senate these are well educated people. Are they just pandering to their base or do they really believe what the say?

          • wildisreal

            I think they are mostly pandering for sure; the science is not complicated and the empirical evidence is showing up pretty much everywhere. The problem is right after acknowledging climate change you morally need to take action, or at least have a plan. Now that RE is so cheap the solutions are here but they also essentially bankrupt the most powerful economic and political forces on Earth. The endgame on the issue literally destroys the market value of politicians most powerful masters so denial remains the easiest short-term strategy.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Coal is no longer very powerful. Coal stocks have lost 50% of their value over the last couple of years while the overall market has done exceptionally well.

          • wildisreal

            Yes, but ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and the like are much more powerful than Peabody. Let us also realize on this level the issue is not partisan, but raw power. Plenty of Democrats (including Hillary) are sold out to the status quo. Regardless, the revolution is indeed underway and the mighty will fall, my impatience simply grows with this awareness in place.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Bring affordable longer range EVs to the market and Big Oil’s political power will dissipate just as big coal’s has done.

            And don’t go too far out with your assumptions of where Democratic leaders are or are not when it come to climate change and renewable energy.

            Do be realistic. There are many problems that need to be solved. We tend to focus on the climate/energy problems. Government leaders have to keep many balls in the air….

          • Bob_Wallace

            Bob Inglis is an ex-senator from South Carolina who lost his seat largely because he publicly acknowledged climate change.

            Since leaving office he has worked to bring a better understanding of climate change to Republican officials. He has stated that most Republican senators accept climate science but feel that they must appear to be deniers in order to stay in office.

          • Matt

            This is while I think their first step will be to support RE from a jobs, NRG diversity position. And never mention the C word.

          • wildisreal

            The solution has to be economically feasible (done) and RE industries need to pay the political system for sure. Nothing will happen without many more lobbyists on our side. My main point is the moral case is also an essential battleground. Morality motivates speed of change even more than money.

          • Ross

            Harnessing greed for a good end is the key to solving the problem.

        • Leslie Graham

          The likely dramatic effects of the building El Nino might elicit more discussion than would otherwise have manifested.
          Plus the 2015 global surface temperature smashing last years new record by a wide margin will make headlines.
          I think we are seeing some movement at last – pity it’s 30 years too late.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think it’s not at all clear that it’s too late to avoid extreme climate change.

    • one4All

      Put your $1 in the collection plate at the nearest Catholic Church because the POPE will be speaking to a joint session of Congress in September and then he will speak at the UN and he will be telling Representatives that God will condemn their souls to HELL if they let his Earth burn up and his people all die.

      • wattleberry

        Just in case they still have them when their bodies are gone.

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