Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Conversation author Nicolas Gunkel seems to think mayors deceiving voters is a good thing.
Many Republican mayors are advancing climate-friendly policies without saying so
Research Fellow at Boston University Initiative on Cities, Boston University
May 30, 2018 8.38pm AEST
In our research at the Boston University Initiative on Cities, we found that large-city Republican mayors shy away from climate network memberships and their associated framing of the problem. But in many cases they advocate locally for policies that help advance climate goals for other reasons, such as fiscal responsibility and public health. In short, the United States is making progress on this issue in some surprising places.
The real measure of Republican mayors taking action on climate change is not the number of networks they join but the policy steps they take, often quietly, at home. While few Republican mayors may attend the next round of sub-national climate summits, many have set out policy agendas that mitigate climate change, without calling a lot of attention to it – much like a number of rural U.S. communities. Focusing narrowly on policy labels and public commitments by mayors fails to capture the various forms of local climate action, especially in GOP-led cities.
Carmel, Indiana Mayor James Brainard has suggested that some of his less-outspoken counterparts may fear a backlash from conservative opinion-makers. “There is a lot of Republicans out there that think like I do. They have been intimidated, to some extent, by the Tea Party and the conservative talk show hosts,” Brainard has said.
Indeed, studies show that the news environment has become increasingly polarized around accepting or denying climate science. Avoiding explicit mention of climate change is enabling a sizable number of big-city GOP mayors to pursue policies that advance climate goals.
In my opinion this apparent endorsement for political dishonesty is nothing short of disgusting. Deceiving voters undermines democracy. A vote only has value if politicians who win those votes fulfil their policy promises.
If mayors believe climate action is required they should take their case to voters, let voters decide how they want their tax money to be spent, instead of deceiving voters because they think they know better than the people who elected them.