This election was a resounding victory for climate action. Americans were presented with the clearest choice yet on global warming, and they chose the presidential candidate who confronted the climate threat, not the one who turned it into a punch line. Voters made the same choice in Congressional races across the country. They overwhelmingly favored leaders who called for more clean energy and other climate solutions.
Let’s be clear here. The issue of climate change appeared throughout this election. President Obama talked about it on the campaign trail, in his convention speech, and in his victory speech. And every time he discussed clean energy and energy efficiency, he was addressing climate change, because the way we power our economy will decide the fate of our climate.
Energy played a central role in this year’s campaigns. Candidates mentioned it frequently on the stump and it was among the top three topics discussed in ads. President Obama took these opportunities to talk about energy efficiency, renewable power, clean cars, and other low-carbon solutions that will defuse climate change and lead our country forward. Governor Romney simply offered more oil and gas drilling and coal-fired power.
Voters chose the clean energy future over the dirty past.
That makes big polluters the biggest losers of this election. Oil, gas, and coal companies and their allies spent more than $270 million on campaign ads in just the last two months and yet they have almost nothing to show for it. Most of the polluters’ preferred candidates lost up and down the ticket. Karl Rove and his Super PACs spent an additional $300 million pushing a pro-polluter, anti-safeguard agenda, but the majority of his candidates failed to win.
As President Obama said on Tuesday night, “Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.” Voters stood up to some of the wealthiest, most polluting industries in the world, and they won. The issue of clean energy has been decided: Americans want more of it and they favor leaders who will deliver it.
This support for clean energy and climate action reaches across the country. Just look at last night’s electoral map. President Obama won every truly swing state (pending Florida), and clean energy supporters won Senate races in Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Florida. Clean energy is not just popular on the coast, but in the Midwest and the Rockies, the North and the South.
Many of these places have already felt the sting of climate change, and residents want to protect their communities from even more intense drought, wildfires, storms, or other extreme weather events.
When climate change begins to make its presence know, people mobilize. The destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy—a taste of things to come—prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to endorse President Obama based on his climate leadership and inspired Governor Chris Christie to praise the president’s response to the crisis. Extreme storms like Sandy don’t distinguish between Republican and Democratic victims. Everyone is in harm’s way and everyone can band together.
Now is the time for America to come together and fight climate change. Poll after poll has shown the strong bipartisan support for clean energy solutions. Last month, Hart Research Associates found that nine out of 10 Americans say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the president and Congress, and that includes 85 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Independents. And two thirds of Americans want to extend tax incentives for clean energy.
The broad backing of clean energy—in the polls and in Tuesday’s results—gives our elected officials the freedom to lead on climate change. Congress should extend clean energy incentives, but even if gridlock continues, President Obama has the authority to clean up our air right now.
He has already used that authority to cut carbon pollution from cars in half—a move that will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump—and propose the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. Now he must use that same authority to clean up existing power plants. The American people just gave him permission, and indeed the mandate, to move forward.
The tide is turning. Voters just rejected the most well funded attempt to hand over our government to polluters and their allies. Voters took the country’s future back into their own hands, rather than letting polluters run the country. They—we—put faith in clean energy and climate champions instead. Now it is time for our leaders to act on that resolve.