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Candidates Quiet on Climate Change
This issue of climate change is rarely mentioned among political candidates this election season.
It’s not surprising considering unemployment and a bad economy dwarf most environmental issues.
When the candidates do discuss climate change the debate usually focuses on comprehensive energy legislation, rather than global warming.
New Hampshire Public Radio’s Amy Quinton reports on why some candidates are keeping quiet about climate change.
Last week, the New Hampshire Carbon Action Alliance held a highly-publicized forum in Manchester to allow voters to ask Congressional candidates questions about climate change.
Problem was, none of the Congressional candidates showed up.
Farrell Seiler, Chairman of the New Hampshire Carbon Action Alliance had spent months organizing the event.
He was disappointed but not entirely surprised.
“We contacted all the candidates, I personally contacted three, physically confronted three, and they don’t see votes to be had from the green constituency that they either don’t have already or don’t anticipate getting in the first place.”
Seiler admits with just a short amount of time left before the election, candidates have a lot to focus on besides a climate forum.
Jim O’Brien, Executive Director of Conservation NH says it’s not that Congressional candidates don’t care about climate change, they just know voters care more about jobs and the economy this season.
But O’Brien says candidates would be wrong to completely ignore the issue.
“1:25 If you talk to NH voters, and we’ve done polling on this, if you ask NH voters if you think that Congress should address climate change, the answer overwhelmingly across parties is yes, it’s something like 85 percent thinks we should do something.”
Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte is the only candidate who has publicly said she’s not convinced that man-made global warming has been proven scientifically.
Ayotte and most of the Republican Congressional candidates have instead focused on their opposition to cap and trade legislation, which would place a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
Ayotte “I do not support cap and trade, it’s going to be a massive energy tax on all of us, it’s going to make us less competitive.”
First Congressional District Republican Frank Guinta has also criticized his opponent, Carol Shea-Porter, for supporting cap and trade legislation, known as the Waxman Markey bill.
He also calls it a national energy tax.
Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes voted in favor of Waxman-Markey, which narrowly passed the House, and died in the Senate.
But Democrats can barely utter the phrase cap and trade without Republicans calling it cap and tax…which may be why Democrats have remained relatively silent.
It’s also tough to sell environmental solutions whose benefits may not be seen for decades to individuals who are worried about their job today.
When asked during a debate, 2ndCongressional District Democrat Ann McLane Kuster said she’d support putting a price on carbon emissions, but immediately switched gears to discuss renewable energy.
Her opponent, Republican Charlie Bass, who has supported cap and trade legislation in the past, was quick to call Waxman Markey a tax.
“It’s really sad that good environmental legislation has gotten such a bad name because of the Waxman Markey bill. All it is, is a tax on businesses that produce carbon”
In concept, cap and trade creates a market-based solution to slow greenhouse gas emissions.
Under a cap and trade system the government allocates permits or credit to companies to reduce carbon.
If a company finds ways to reduce their carbon pollution, it can sell its excess credits.
This financial incentive is the basis for the ten-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
It was first proposed by former New York Governor George Pataki, a Republican.
So what gives?
Jim O’Brien with Conservation New Hampshire says Waxman Markey – which was more than 12-hundred pages – was just too extensive.
5:13 Waxman Markey is a very big broad based bill that regulated about 85-percent of the nation’s economy, so it was pretty far reaching, it wasn’t just power plants, it was power plants, industrial plants.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, on the other hand applied to power plants only.
Former six-term congressman Charlie Bass says Waxman Markey is not anything like RGGI.
1:58 the bill I supported when I was in Congress and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is electric only applies reasonable standards, and the resources that are derived from those caps go directly to the enhancement of the alternative energy industry in this state.
Income from the Waxman Markey legislation goes to a variety of different programs, from tax benefits to helping other countries adapt to climate change.
Bass says like New Hampshire, the nation needs to first adopt a renewable portfolio standard…a regulation that requires increases in renewable energy sources.
But it’s clear that other Republicans still have problems with cap and trade systems – even those like RGGI.
The state Republican platform asks that the state withdraw from RGGI.
And if Republicans sweep Congress during these mid-term elections, the prospects of any climate legislation passing next year may be dim.
For NHPR news, I’m Amy Quinton.