But that exact enthusiasm could alienate other voters—a Kobayashi Maru trap where winning a climate debate means losing an election. “In the industrial Midwest, in these blue-collar places, in farming communities, people get that it’s happening, but they are living paycheck to paycheck in a way that makes them fearful of change,” Costa says. “We lost the electoral college by a few tens of thousands in the Midwest, so if you want to deal with climate change, if you want to elect an administration that’s going to do it, you need to take seriously people’s fears about their jobs and livelihoods.
The moderate wing of that party is starting to see climate change as an imminent policy issue and a political vulnerability, especially in places like Miami, site of the debates and deeply vulnerable to hurricanes and rising sea levels. “Younger Republicans are much more open to the Democratic message about this,” Leiserowitz says. “They’re like, how come nobody in our party is talking about it, and when they do, they’re saying it’s a hoax?
Three quarters of people polled see climate change as an environmental issue, but just a quarter see national security implications—despite the fact that drought and extreme weather contribute to wars and displacement. “At the DNC, they’re defining climate change as yet another issue, no more important and historically less important than health care, jobs, and the economy,” Leiserowitz says. “How can you have a true, strategic, long-term discussion about the threats facing this country if you’re not addressing climate change?
To be fair, that argument is also at the core of Inslee’s push for a climate debate. “Climate change addresses all of the issues we’re talking about in this race,” says Katie Rodihan, press secretary for the Inslee campaign. “You want to talk about health care?
But these policy issues are complicated. “That requires a really coherent, concise message that is challenging to deliver,” says Kristina Costa, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund who advised both the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s campaign on climate issues, and worked on Clinton’s debate prep team. “Especially if you have 30 seconds and you’re fighting over nine other people.
In some polling, liberal Democrats, the so-called base, identify climate change as their number-three voting priority, and protecting the environment as number two. “They want their candidates to talk about it,” says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
That’s the excuse Oregon Republicans used to cast themselves as heroic defenders of the working class when they fled the state rather than be part of a quorum in the senate that could vote on an ambitious cap-and-trade carbon reduction bill. (Investigative work by Rob Davis of The Oregonian eviscerated the Republicans who fled the state: Among the companies who donated the most to those senators are Koch Industries, owned by the climate change denying Koch brothers, and Oregon timber companies.
The Democrats will have their climate debates. They just might not want to win. https://t.co/6br26J4Yxw— WIRED (@WIRED) June 26, 2019