Election Slaughter for Climate Activism

This month, voters throughout the country inflicted a bloodbath on climate activism and climate-activist political candidates.  Voters rejected the two highest-profile climate-activist ballot initiatives, severely punished Republicans who joined the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus, and sent home the Democratic climate activist most heavily supported by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

State Ballot Initiatives Rejected

Washington State voters soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have taxed carbon dioxide emissions.  It was the second consecutive election in which Washington voters rejected a carbon dioxide tax.  Even in deep-blue Washington, the proposed tax lost by double-digits in 2016 and now in 2018.

Meanwhile, Arizona voters inflicted a humiliating defeat on a ballot initiative that would have required 50 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources.  Voters rejected the initiative by a whopping 70 percent to 30 percent.  The defeat was particularly crushing to Steyer, who wrote the ballot initiative and spent approximately $20 million supporting it.

Climate alarmists' only silver lining came in Nevada, where 59 percent of voters approved the same 50-percent renewable power mandate Arizonans rejected.  However, to amend the Nevada Constitution, voters must approve an amendment in consecutive elections, which means they'll have to approve the proposed amendment again in 2020.  Although Nevadans rendered first-round approval, it was made possible only because Steyer spent $6 million backing the measure and there was very limited organized opposition.  In light of Arizona's massive rejection of the same proposal, this Steyer initiative faces an uphill climb in 2020.

Climate Caucus Crushed

Voters also demolished the notion that climate activism can be a winning message for Republican politicians.  The congressional Climate Solutions Caucus, which claims to seek and support "economically viable options to reduce climate risk," lost half its Republican membership.  Of the caucus's 43 Republican members, 11 were defeated, another three appeared likely to lose in races yet to be officially decided, one lost earlier this year in the Republican primary, and seven others decided not to seek re-election (most because they realized they were going to lose anyway).  That means that 22 of the 43 Republicans – more than half the caucus's Republican membership – disappeared after the elections.

Voters did more than kneecap the caucus by rejecting many of its members.  Voters also cut off the caucus's head by sending caucus cofounder and Republican leader Carlos Curbelo home in defeat.  Curbelo was the media darling who served as the figurehead of the caucus.  But when push came to shove, Curbelo's climate activism did him no political good.  Only one environmental activist group supported him, another opposed him, and most sat on the sidelines.  Curbelo lost despite the power of incumbency, a huge spending advantage, and the benefit of facing a novice political opponent.

Voters reinforced what should have been clear from the outset: Republicans who join the Climate Solutions Caucus betray the conservative grassroots base and gain little support from the environmental left in doing so.

Steyer's Golden Child Goes Down in Defeat

Democratic climate activists also suffered crushing defeats.  The biggest was the defeat of Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.  Global warming activists have long argued that global warming is a winning political issue – for Democrats and Republicans alike – in Florida.  Gillum made global warming a central issue in his campaign, and Steyer donated $7 million on behalf of Gillum's campaign.

Gillum was Steyer's political golden child.  As noted by CNN in October when reporting on Steyer's donations on behalf of Gillum, "Steyer has picked his favorite candidate and is pulling out all the stops."  But voters in politically purple Florida elected a candidate, Ron DeSantis, who explicitly emphasized he is "not a global warming person" and does not believe that Florida's government should be devoting attention or resources to addressing climate change.

Alaskan voters also delivered a stinging rebuke to another Democratic climate activist.  Global warming activists argue that Alaska, like Florida, is particularly fertile political ground for politicians to emphasize global warming.  Nevertheless, Alaskans elected Republican Mike Dunleavy governor instead of Democratic climate activist Mark Begich, who had taken an even more aggressive position on global warming than incumbent Gov. Bill Walker.

Dunleavy, by contrast, emphasized that he does not put much stock in global warming alarmism.  "I think we have a lot of issues that, in my opinion, are, quite frankly and bluntly, more important than the climate task force," Dunleavy said.

The reason alarmists failed on Election Day isn't because Americans don't care about being good stewards of the planet; it's because the more people have a chance to examine the evidence related to the causes and consequences of climate change, the less concerned they are about global warming.

There is no evidence that humans are on the verge of suffering from catastrophic man-caused climate change.  Voters know it, and that's why they sent a clear message to Democrats and Republicans in the midterms: stop putting the interests of left-wing environmental radicals before those of working families – and if you do, do so at your own peril.

James Taylor (JTaylor@heartland.org) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.

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