Photo by John Englart (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Bill McKibben Thinks Climate Change Is The Key To A Biden Win In November

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Bill McKibben, the committed climate activist who has been educating us about the dangers of climate change for decades, has some advice for Joe Biden as the next presidential campaign heats up (no pun intended). Soon it will be June, with the next election just a little over five months away. Time to get serious, McKibben thinks. Mark Twain famously said, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you near as much as what you do know that t’ain’t true.” So, what is it that Americans think they know? In a poll released this week, nearly half of voters said American unemployment was at a 50-year high. In fact, unemployment in America today is as low as it has been in the last 50 years.

Twenty percent of voters blame Biden for the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that extinguished the right of American women to control their own bodies and made their reproductive organs the exclusive property of state governments — governments that are overwhelmingly dominated by old white males. This despite the fact that the former president packed the court with sworn opponents of Roe Vs Wade. How anyone could think Biden had anything to do with Dobbs is a complete mystery, and yet beliefs are reality for many.

McKibben has some advice for Biden. Hit the topic of climate change early and often for three reasons.

One, it’s popular. Something — some combination of fire, flood, and movement-building — has persuaded Americans that climate change is real, and that the government should take action to slow it down. Across surveys the polling is clear. And voters perceive Democrats as much better on climate: Indeed, some new polling indicates it may have played a crucial role in the last election.

Two, it gets way more popular when you explain it. A new survey of young voters from Data for Progress showed that “approval for Biden’s handling of climate change and the environment improves by 17 percentage points among young voters after respondents hear more about his climate action. Approval of Biden’s handling of climate change and the environment reaches 69% among 18- to 34-year-old voters after respondents read a series of questions about his climate achievements.” Biden put enormous political capital into winning passage of the IRA. He might as well get political gain from all of that.

Three, people hate Trump’s positions on the issue. The highest profile climate action he took in term one was withdrawing America from the Paris accords, and less than a third of voters approved. And this time around he’s doing everything he can to cement his reputation as the corrupt candidate of fossil fuel. Yesterday, amid the ruins of the city’s greatest windstorm, he held a fundraising lunch with leading frackers in downtown Houston.

Climate Change And The Political Climate

Emily Atkin, author of the hard hitting blog HEATED, had some especially scathing thoughts about that fundraiser, which not coincidentally came shortly after the disgraced former president openly sought to solicit bribes from the fossil fuel industry in exchange for favorable polices if he gets reelected. “It is tragically ironic that the executives are meeting in Houston,” Atkin wrote, “where more than 200,000 homes and businesses are still without power from a violent storm that killed at least four people, and where a dangerous heat wave is currently building. Storms like these are ‘on the rise in a warming climate,’ Bloomberg reported.

“But climate costs for regular Houstonians are likely not on oil executives’ minds. According to an analysis from Friends of the Earth, taking Trump’s ‘deal’ could save the fossil fuel industry $110 billion over time if Biden’s proposed elimination of industry tax breaks comes to pass. The cost for the world’s most vulnerable, of course, will be unfathomably higher. And should he be re-elected, Trump will always be a recognizable face to blame.” Atkin goes on to show mug shots of the despicable creatures who would happily make the Earth uninhabitable for most humans if it increases their wealth by one centime.

Ramping Up Profits In Spite Of Climate Change

climate change
Source: Global GHG Emissions 2019 excluding LUCF. Climate Watch

McKibben points out that fossil fuel interests already support Trump over Biden by a 40-to-1 margin. He wants more, of course, which is why he held his billion-dollar extortion dinner earlier this month. When people were told about his efforts to shake down fossil fuel executives, two thirds of likely voters didn’t like it. The oil companies, as a new report from Oil Change International makes clear, continue to lie about climate change and their efforts to “combat” it. “American fossil fuel corporations are the worst of the worst,” its OCI’s US program manager Allie Rosenbluth said. “Chevron, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips perpetuate harm in frontline communities not only across the U.S. but worldwide.”

Oil Change International found that six out of the eight companies have official plans to increase oil and gas production. The only two that did not were BP and Shell. However, those companies employ a misleading strategy — they compensate for new oil and gas projects by selling off polluting assets. While the emissions from the sold operations no longer count toward company emissions, they still count toward the planet’s total. This practice is out of line with the GHG Protocol on corporate emissions accounting and may violate the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the group said.

At some visceral level, Americans understand that, McKibben says, so he thinks it would be a triple threat to say to people, “Trump will take away your rights. He will take away your democracy. And he will take away the planet you’ve known.” All three statements are true, especially as Trump acolytes are now openly talking about a “unified reich” if Donald “I fart in your general direction” Trump regains the Offal Office.

McKibben suggests a focus on climate change could be especially effective because in the next few months, Americans are likely to experience some of the hottest weather anyone has ever seen. Memories of the Dobbs decision and January 6 insurrection may be slowly fading, but right now in America, people are sweating, he says. The first big heat dome of the season has settled over the Southeast, with Key West and Miami setting records for muggy weather, including a heat index of over 115°F last week.

Make Climate Change The Focal Point

climate change

How appropriate that “political savant Ron DeSantis” chose last week to outlaw talking about climate within the Florida government. How much more evidence do we need that lunatics like Rabid Ron are a clear and present danger to society? And yet the majority of Florida voters embrace him for making their state a laughing stock of the nation. A new study this week shows that heatwaves have tripled since the 1960s in the US and that deaths from those hot spells are up 800%. Ominously, the water offshore in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico is preposterously hot, which is why forecasters are predicting a record hurricane season. Perhaps the Big Guy can divert them with his Sharpie!

What Biden can and should say, according to Bill McKibben, is that he has done more by far than any other president to support clean energy. He thinks Biden should be standing shoulder to shoulder with Americans sweltering in record heat and picking up the pieces of their shattered lives when powerful storms devastate their communities. Let him show up for those people the way he did for the United Auto Workers last year, in other words. “My message would be relentless and simple,” McKibben says. “To get out of this cycle of destruction, we need clean energy. I’ve supported it. My opponent has opposed it, and on laughable grounds — that windmills cause cancer. So let’s go forward, not backward.” Voters want candidates in touch with reality, even if they don’t always have a firm grasp of reality themselves. But everyone can tell the temperature, and over the five months to the election, it’s going to be hot, McKibben points out.

The Takeaway

This election is not about Israel, gender identity, reproductive rights, or immigration. It is about preserving the Earth as a place that supports human life. Addressing climate change is the #1 priority, because unless that issue is resolved favorably, all the others will become irrelevant. We need to rein in the rapacious fossil fuel companies. Everything else is secondary. Please vote responsibly.

Featured photo by John Englart (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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