Friday, August 12, 2016


Three Party Climate Platforms

With respect to climate change, this party advocates the following: 1) “technology driven, market based solutions that will decrease emissions”; 2) “mitigate the impact of climate change...”; and 3) a call for “global efforts to address climate change.” It adds that the world's poorest “would suffer terribly if climate change is severe – just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled. We must not allow either outcome.”

Sound familiar? In stark contrast, that same party's 2016 platform alleges that “environmental extremists in the Democratic Party” are working to “sustain the illusion of an environmental crisis.” The party would “forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide,” and “do away with the Clean Power Plan,” abolishing the EPA as we know it, to be replaced by a bi-partisan commission answerable to the states, not the Feds. The party platform would halt funding for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whose auspices the Paris Agreement was forged (through an extraordinary act of global diplomacy). It rejects outright the Paris Agreement, and would authorize its candidate to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement. Their nominee has said that climate change is a “hoax.”

How far the Republican Party has come on this issue, as with so many others, since the 2008 election. This is not because the electorate has shifted in a conservative direction, but because the democratic process of representative government was hijacked by the brilliant maneuvering of party operatives who used their control of state houses to gerrymander congressional districts in the majority of states after the 2010 census. Popular votes for Congress have amassed a plurality of votes for Democratic candidates in each election since 2010, but due to redistricting, the Republican Party now has a stranglehold on Congress. The most infamous of these districts nationwide is NC's 12th, which runs from Charlotte to Greensboro, respecting no county lines, city limits, nor any test of common sense.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform on climate change is the mirror opposite of their colleagues'. It acknowledges climate change as a “real and urgent threat...requiring ambitious, immediate action across our economy.” “We cannot leave our children a planet that has been profoundly damaged,” it adds. Democrats would “close the Hallilburton loophole stripping the EPA of its ability to regulate [fracking],” and it would “price carbon to reflect the negative externalities” (i.e. environmental damage which is not reflected in corporate balance sheets). Thus they would push for a carbon tax.

The climate debate is effectively over, with the Paris Agreement marking a global consensus. To withdraw from it, as the currently unrecognizable GOP demands, would severely cripple any foreign policy agenda of our president, in addition to effectively dooming global civilization. The document was carefully crafted not to be a treaty (contrasted with the Kyoto Accord, which the US never ratified), and is thus a matter of executive action, rather than Senate ratification.

It is a global tragedy that a reality tv personality, an amoral narcissist with absolutely no political experience, has become the standard-bearer of the GOP. He has thoroughly embarrassed a once-great political party, reducing its legislative leaders to forced acquiescence to outright lies. Regardless of what you think of his opponent, members of all parties, as well as those unaffiliated who continue to reflect the fiercely independent spirit of the mountain people, should think long and hard before voting for a demagogue who has made a mockery of our political process. The short-sighted electoral maneuverings of party operatives have unfortunately insured his rise to prominence, and removed moderate politicians from both major parties, whose leavening presence once allowed governance of this hugely diverse country. The system is badly broken, just when we desperately need it to work. The solution would be to turn redistricting over to nonpartisan commissions (which a handful of states have). In the meantime, the planet is burning, and we have a crucial choice to make in November.

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