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An Unlikely Winner Not Even on the Ballot

By Tad Segal, President, Outreach Strategies The reelection of Barack Obama guarantees that his policy priorities on health care, taxes and jobs will be center stage in the coming months.  No surprise there.  But what about climate change – or as both campaigns treated it – “The issue that shall not be named?”  In a stunning upset of conventional wisdom, climate change actually emerged as a bona-fide issue during this election. Don’t believe it?  Here are some clues: The most remarkable one came courtesy of Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman, during an election-night interview on MSNBC.  Without prompting, Steele cited “cap and trade” as an example of where the Republicans need to rethink their approach. This was an unforced and unsolicited comment – and it’s remarkable for any politician – Republican or Democrat - to mention cap and trade in a positive way on network television without prompting, let alone on election night. Then there was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of Obama that cited climate change as one reason the Independent threw his weight behind the President. Bloomberg almost singlehandedly succeeded in putting climate change forward as a must-tackle issue for the second term. Meanwhile, across the Hudson River, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie embraced the President in his state’s time of need, showing the kind of leadership and bipartisanship that voters are so hungry for.  It will be interesting and instructive to see how Christie handles the issue of climate change in the next few weeks and months.  This is, after all, someone who led his state’s withdrawal from RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that provides Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states access to a carbon market under a cap-and-trade system.  He is also someone who believes in science, and can easily make causal links as an unprecedented mega-storm wreaked havoc on his beloved New Jersey.  (I wonder where The Boss stands on the issue of climate change?) Of course, we all know that the real change agent here was Hurricane Sandy.  After years of bizarre blizzards, hellacious heat waves, 100-year floods that appear each year and droughts that make the dustbowl look quaint – Americans are more than ready to accept the science that climate change is playing a role in these extreme weather events.   Scientists like to use the analogy that man-made increases of CO2 in the atmosphere are the equivalent of  “loading the dice” on extreme weather events.  Not being a gambling man, I’d like to offer another analogy.  Increasing CO2 levels is like lowering the hoops in a basketball game to the players’ eye level.  Think we’ll get more slam-dunks? The most interesting thing about all of this is it reinforces that climate change is not a partisan issue, nor should it be.  The fact is that Democrats and Republicans will be impacted equally by changing weather patterns, severe storms, flooding and droughts.  Mother nature doesn’t live in a Red State or a Blue State.  She doesn’t make campaign contributions, and she can’t be lobbied.  Therefore, both Democrats and Republicans need to work together to deal with this important and demanding constituent.

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