Democrats’ Debate Further Demonstrates Illegitimacy of Obama’s Climate Pivot

In the wake of Tuesday’s unexpected decision by the Supreme Court to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, politicians and commentators are predicting that the Court’s action will make climate change a top tier election issue in 2016.

As reported by E&E Daily, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), believes the Supreme Court ruling will “escalate” the climate issue in national prominence during the presidential campaign. Similarly, Salon ran a story about how the Supreme Court’s decision sets up 2016 to be a “climate change election.”

With these predictions in mind, I was struck last night by the fact that there wasn’t a single question during the PBS Democratic presidential candidate debate on global warming. After all, Obama is trying to build a legacy on the climate, and the Supreme Court just checked his marquee climate policy. So you’d think it would merit some attention. But it didn’t.

And to understand why climate change was ignored (again), one need only to check the polls. Consider this Gallup poll from February 7, according to which global warming is “below average in importance to both parties.” In the same vein, Americans rank “environment/pollution” (presumably including anthropogenic global warming) as at most their 23rd priority, according to a February 11 Gallup poll.

Remember, the President has been using his bully pulpit since August in an effort to cement a climate legacy. To this end, he has repeatedly warned that global warming is among the greatest threats facing mankind. And yet, despite months of alarmist rhetoric, Americans, as noted, rank climate change 23rd (at most) on their list of priorities, and it is a “below average” issue for members of both political parties.

Indeed, Obama’s reelection campaign provides sure evidence that the Gallup polling is spot-on. In 2012, the president ran away from global warming as fast as he could. At the second presidential debate, Obama claimed to be to the right of Mitt Romney on energy policy. That Obama, the one who was trying to win reelection, was pro-fossil fuel, and he wouldn’t talk about global warming unprompted. The obvious explanation for this behavior is that his political advisors told him that climate change is a stinking loser of an issue to run on.

Like Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, billionaire green activist Tom Steyer’s recent foray into campaign finance also affirms this month’s Gallup polling indicating Americans don’t care about climate change. In 2014, Steyer spent scores of millions of dollars in an avowed attempt to infuse midterm Congressional elections with the issue of climate change. But he quickly learned that campaign ads on climate change are a waste of money due to public apathy, so Steyer’s people spent his dark money on abortion ads instead.

In conclusion, I should note how I much I welcome the presidential candidates’ embrace of climate policy, which is far preferable to what the sitting president is doing—imposing climate policies that enjoy zero electoral legitimacy, because Obama misrepresented his intentions during his reelection campaign. Let’s have all the candidates put their cards on the table. Do they, or do they not think climate change is a threat on par with terrorism? Do they, or do they not support the administrative imposition of a cap-and-trade scheme? Then voters can decide for themselves what policies they get, rather than enduring Obama’s climate bait-and-switch.