Thursday, April 16, 2015

An Open Letter to the 2016 Presidential Hopefuls re: Climate Change

Dear 2016 Presidential Hopefuls:

Climate change will be a significant issue during the 2016 election cycle. It could even be the defining one. I know some of you would rather avoid the topic, but, well, you can't. Part of being President is taking responsibility for the future of America, and that means dealing with man-made climate change, whether you like it not. If you don't want the responsibility, don't run.

The actions the next President takes on man-made climate change are critical. Given that the ramifications of non-action are significant impacts across the entire gamut of executive responsibilities, the choices made may very well be the most important decisions defining our nation's future.

Man-made climate change impacts our health and the environment, which should be enough in themselves to warrant action. But since some of you act like those things aren't important, keep in mind that man-made climate change has dramatic impacts on our economy, our national security, and on immigration policy. We've already seen impacts on our climate, on social norms, and on ecological and economic patterns. Those will continue to get worse.

So let's start with the basics:

The climate system is warming, and

human activity is the dominant cause of that warming, and
          impacts are serious and already occurring.
These are unequivocal facts. Denial is not an option. Some of you think that playing politics with our future is just another parlor game of no importance. But guess what; being President means you have to deal with the hand you're given. And that means dealing with man-made climate change. Oklahoma's drought doesn't go away because an 80-year-old Senator tells his 20-something-year-old aid to run outside and bag a snowball in the middle of winter. Denial is a slap in the face to your constituents, and when you're President, all 320 million Americans are your constituents.

Luckily, some people have been taking responsibility and providing leadership. The current administration has been taking steps despite Congressional inaction. We've already seen carbon emission reductions and shifting toward renewable energy sources. In 2014 the President signed a landmark agreement with China to move both our countries forward. Other actions between the US and India and with Europe continue the trend in a year that could end with a significant global climate change commitment in Paris. That Paris agreement is going to put pressure on all the US presidential candidates to explain how they will address man-made climate change.

Most options for dealing with climate change involve reducing carbon emissions, both here at home and, through our leadership, in the rest of the world. There are many ways that this can be accomplished, so rather than irresponsibly and dishonestly deny the science, feel free to propose your preferred option.

But be honest about it. The last time there was an effort to reduce carbon emissions, the two parties offered up their preferences. The Democratic party generally favored a carbon tax option, while the Republican party favored a cap-and-trade option. John McCain, George W. Bush and other Republicans actively lobbied for cap-and-trade and managed to convince the Democratic party to support it. But guess what; as soon as everyone was behind cap-and-trade the Republicans started attacking it. Yes, they attacked their own proposal. Touted as a "market-based mechanism" (which it is), suddenly it became a "socialist agenda" as soon as Democrats agreed to it.

Sorry, but that's just not honest.

As a 2016 presidential hopeful, it is incumbent upon all of you to be honest with your proposals. And since the president is president for all of the country, not just the party he or she belongs to, this means having the honesty and leadership capacity to keep your own party honest. That isn't always possible, as the recent Congresses have aptly demonstrated, but your obligation will be to the entire American people, not to one party.

Being president isn't an easy job (as George W. Bush will remind you), but it is a critical one. If you can't handle the responsibility, don't run for the position.

But hey, there is plenty of time between now and election day, so you have the opportunity to be a leader. That starts with taking responsibility for your actions and the actions of your supporters. And it means being honest. Some of you haven't started off too well in that regard.

We'll be watching.


The Voters