Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Politico reports that top Democrats are refraining from taking advantage of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, in stark contrast to their response to Hurricane Sandy.
Democrats hold their fire on climate change
They’re largely refraining from using the destruction wrought by Harvey and Irma as an occasion to lambaste President Donald Trump’s policies.
By EMILY HOLDEN and ELANA SCHOR 09/12/2017 06:09 PM EDT
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have handed Democrats their most potent opportunity in half a decade to hammer Republicans on climate change — with the massive storms giving tens of millions of Americans an upfront glimpse of the types of devastation the world faces if the warming planet spawns a surge in extreme weather.
But instead, they’re mostly keeping quiet.
That’s a contrast from past storms like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, when Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the disaster a sign that “climate change is a reality.” Even then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, cited the storm and climate change at the time among his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama’s reelection as president.
The wariness of appearing to seize on a disaster is “part of” the party’s calculus behind keeping the climate politics to a minimum after the hurricanes, said the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Tom Carper of Delaware.
“When we’ve done a good deal more work in terms of cleanup and getting folks’ lives back to normal, I hope we do a deep dive into whether or not the warming in the Gulf of Mexico is really what’s causing this,” Carper added in an interview, vowing that a broader climate conversation is “coming soon.”
It’s not a good idea to try to land a “punch to the gut of climate change deniers” while first responders are still “pulling bodies out of the water,” said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
But green groups haven’t hesitated to take aim at Trump online, with the Natural Resources Defense Council criticizing his recent move to rescind climate standards for federal infrastructure and the League of Conservation Voters praising Miami’s Republican mayor, Tomás Regalado, for saying it is time to talk about climate change.
Bill McKibben, founder of the outspoken climate activist group 350.org, shied away from disparaging Democrats, though.
“We’ve got a much sterner test for Democrats than will they talk about climate change — it’s will they come out for 100% renewable energy,” he said by email. “Short of that, talk is cheap.”
As noted previously, many people in regions affected by the hurricanes don’t see climate as an issue. Hillary Clinton recently admitted her greatest regret was threatening the jobs of coal miners.