President Obama visited China and made a "landmark agreement" to limit greenhouse gases, and environmental reporter Coral Davenport was excited about the issue's political prospects for the Democratic presidential candidate (Hillary?), in Thursday's lead New York Times story, "In Climate Deal, Obama May Set a Theme for 2016."
Davenport eagerly cited polls showing most Americans think "climate change" is a problem that requires action. Yet her very own recent article mocking the GOP on its stance cited a Pew poll "showing that Americans rank climate change near the bottom of policy concerns."
Davenport cited surveys from left-wing ideological groups to make her case.
President Obama’s landmark agreement with China to cut greenhouse gas pollution is a bet by the president and Democrats that on the issue of climate change, American voters are far ahead of Washington’s warring factions and that the environment will be a winning cause in the 2016 presidential campaign.
A variety of polls show that a majority of American voters now believe that climate change is occurring, are worried about it, and support candidates who back policies to stop it. In particular, polls show that majorities of Hispanics, young people and unmarried women -- the voters who were central to Mr. Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 -- support candidates who back climate change policy.
But Republicans are betting that despite the polls, they can make the case that regulations to cut greenhouse pollution will result in the loss of jobs and hurt the economy.
But an answer to a single poll question reveals only one dimension. The natural followup: How much does the issue matter? Polls suggest that "climate change" is far down the list.
Mr. McConnell’s remarks were a hint of a line of attack Republicans are certain to use on Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. The architect of Mr. Obama’s climate change plan is none other than his senior counselor, John D. Podesta, who is likely to leave the White House next year to work as the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
The climate plan that Mr. Podesta has drafted for Mr. Obama is expected to serve as a blueprint for Mrs. Clinton’s climate change policy, should she run.
Since the deal Mr. Obama made with China calls for the United States to cut its planet-warming carbon pollution by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, he has effectively placed the obligation on his successor to meet that goal.
That dynamic sets up climate change as a potentially explosive issue on the 2016 campaign trail, which may pit Mrs. Clinton against a field of Republican candidates who question and deny the science that human activity causes global warming. A number of prospective Republican presidential candidates have already attacked what they say is Mr. Obama’s “war on coal.”
As evidence, Republican strategists point to their recent wave of victories in this year’s midterm elections, when they campaigned aggressively against Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations.
But Democrats are increasingly emboldened by polls showing that in national elections, candidates who push climate change policies will win support from voters.
According to a 2013 poll by Stanford University, 73 percent of Americans believe that the earth has been warming over the past 100 years, while 81 percent of Americans think global warming poses a serious problem in the United States. In addition, 81 percent think the federal government should limit the amount of greenhouse gases that American businesses can emit.
Twenty-one percent of Americans think producing electricity from coal is a good idea, while 91 percent of Americans think making electricity from sunlight is a good idea.
Davenport stretched to make climate change a racial issue with a poll from a left-wing activist group.
A 2014 poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, meanwhile, found that majorities of women, minorities and young people support candidates who strongly endorse climate action. That poll found that 65 percent of Hispanics, 53 percent of blacks and 53 percent of unmarried women support candidates who back climate change action.
It found that 44 percent of people in their 20s favor candidates who support climate change action, compared with 17 percent who oppose climate action.
Davenport thinks the China agreement is a killer retort to conservatives who argue that climate change regulation would amount to unilateral economic disarmament, hurting the U.S. economy while China was allowed to grow unregulated.
Democrats also believe that Wednesday’s announcement weakens at least one crucial Republican argument against climate action. For years, Republicans have argued that the United States should not take unilateral action on climate change because it would hamstring the economy while China, the world’s largest carbon polluter, failed to act. But the agreement with China undercuts that argument.
Republicans who seek to win their presidential nomination will have to win support from their conservative base -- white and older voters, who, polls show, are less likely to believe that climate change is a problem. More important, Republicans do not want to be targeted by conservative outside groups like Americans for Prosperity, the political advocacy group funded by the libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Davenport concluded her lead story by once again insisting the GOP's go slow policy on climate change will hurt them in the next election cycle (just like being against immigration reform hurt the party this year?)
But some Republican strategists worry that the position on climate change that could help win them their party’s nomination could hurt them in a general election, particularly in a contest with a larger number of young and minority voters.
Davenport's enthusiastic lead story was accompanied by an equally ardent lead editorial, "A Major Breakthrough on Climate Change."
The climate accord represents a startling turnaround after years of futile efforts to cooperate in a meaningful way on global warming. It sends two critically important messages, one to the world and the other to the United States Congress. China and the United States together account for about 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Their new commitments are thus almost certain to energize other countries to set more ambitious targets of their own before negotiators meet to frame a new global agreement at the climate summit meeting in Paris in December 2015.
In the United States, the agreement cuts the ground from under people like Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, and others who have long argued that there is no point in taking aggressive steps against greenhouse gases as long as major developing countries refused to do likewise. This argument effectively undermined Senate support for ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The climate deniers in Congress will find other reasons to oppose a strong climate strategy, and are doing so even now. But the “China” argument has effectively disappeared.