MUST READ: NYT’s David Leonhardt on 2020 and the Climate
Gallup’s polls have shown a gradually rising share of Americans concerned about the environment since the early 2000s. Roughly 60 percent now say that the quality of the environment is poor or only fair; that it is getting worse; and that the federal government is doing too little to protect it.
Washington, D.C. – Today, the New York Times’ David Leonhardt reports on the changing politics of climate change, citing newly released Climate Power 2020 polling that found voters in battleground states are eager to see politicians embrace bold climate action.
Key sections are below:
Gallup’s polls have shown a gradually rising share of Americans concerned about the environment since the early 2000s. Roughly 60 percent now say that the quality of the environment is poor or only fair; that it is getting worse; and that the federal government is doing too little to protect it. And more than 70 percent favor tougher restrictions for power plants and vehicle emissions, as well as a push to develop clean-energy alternatives, according to Pew. This week, President Trump and Joe Biden have staked out dueling positions on the climate. Biden proposed a $2 trillion plan to attack climate change. Trump has continued weakening environmental rules and said Biden’s plan would “kill our energy totally” and force 25 percent of U.S. companies to close.
In past campaigns, this contrast would have made some Democrats nervous, especially during an economic downturn. Today, though, party leaders increasingly believe that the climate is politically helpful to them. John Podesta, the longtime Democratic official, told me he thought Trump was walking into a trap by continuing to highlight the issue. A coalition of progressive groups released a poll yesterday that asked if people supported “spending trillions of dollars to invest in clean energy infrastructure.” About 55 percent of voters said yes. Even larger majorities of Hispanic and younger voters said so — and Podesta said he thought that emphasizing climate issues could lift turnout among those groups (which is below average).
There is still one big political risk for Democrats on the issue: the possibility that addressing climate change will raise energy costs. But the party seems to have learned some lessons there. While Democrats in the past have emphasized measures to increase the cost of dirty energy — like a cap-and-trade system — Biden is not. He is instead largely ignoring the potential cost increases and focusing on more popular consequences, like cleaner air and an increase in green-energy jobs.