If you check out the issues section of Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler’s Senate campaign website, you’ll find the thinnest of statements on a variety of subjects ranging from immigration to trade. But not a word about the climate crisis. Republican Sen. David Perdue’s campaign website provides more detail about his views and actions on issues, but there, too, not a word about the climate crisis despite the impacts it’s already having on Georgia. Perhaps that’s because when Perdue does talk about climate, everybody gets to see scientific illiteracy in action.
Meanwhile, both their foes in the Jan. 5 election runoff—Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff respectively—have put dealing with climate among their highest priorities. Which is a key reason the League of Conservation Voters and Climate Hawks have endorsed Warnock and Ossoff. Said Brionté McCorkle, director of the Georgia Conservation Voters, ”We need leaders in the Senate like Ossoff and Rev. Warnock who put people over polluters and prioritize climate justice, clean energy, and clean water. […] Climate change is an ongoing crisis. It continues to get more urgent as we start to see more extreme weather.” In Georgia, these extremes are occurring from heat, coastal flooding and erosion from sea level rise, worsening hurricanes, heavier precipitation, and harm from development to ecosystems, particularly to the state’s wetlands and its rich biodiversity.
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Without both Warnock and Ossoff in the Senate, a whole lot of things across the entire range of matters that need transformation just won’t be accomplished, whether it’s reforming the police, extending health care, or implementing environmental justice, to mention only a few. Even with a 50-50 Senate if these two men win seats in the runoff, there will be rough sailing ahead. So there are plenty of good reasons to support them with your money, if you can afford it, and your spare time, if you have any, for phonebanking and textbanking.
As for climate, continuing with a Republican Senate majority means huge obstacles blockading any effort at addressing a crisis that has become more apparent every day, a crisis that hurts people of low income and people of color disproportionately, a crisis that is exacerbated by elected officials at the federal and state levels flat out denying that humans are its cause or counseling a delay in taking action. Delay, of course, being just another form of denial.
What we’ll get with a David Perdue in office is obvious since he’s an incumbent. He encouraged Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. He voted no on a Senate resolution, asserting that climate change is not only real but that humans contribute to making it happen. He has dismissed the Green New Deal as a “socialist wish list.” He is protective of the coal industry and has been endorsed by the Koch-backed super PAC Americans for Prosperity, which has been all-in on policies embracing climate science denial since its founding a decade and a half ago. Perdue maintains his public stance of denial even while residing in a gated beachfront neighborhood that has made huge investments to shield the privileged community against sea level rise.
Loeffler, on the other hand, hasn’t had much to say about the climate crisis. Last year she was appointed to the board of major polluter Georgia Power on the basis of her experience in cap and trade securities when she was a top executive at Intercontinental Exchange Inc. 10 years ago. Although the utility has added a small amount of solar power in the past five years, it generates most of its electricity from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. Loeffler has taken a hard line against government regulation and given the obligatory thumbs-down to the Green New Deal without offering anything in the way of an alternative.
Neither Warnock nor Ossoff have endorsed the Green New Deal, which doesn’t make them unique among Democrats. But they nonetheless support aggressive action against the climate crisis. Ossoff, for example, calls for “a historic infrastructure plan that includes massive investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.”
In an interview with CNBC, Ossoff said:
I’ll work to make Georgia America’s leading state in clean energy production. I will fight for massive investment in clean and renewable energy and transitioning away from carbon-emitting energy production. One of the things I’m most excited about is that when we win the Senate and the White House, we will have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for our economy, to save our environment, to bring commerce and human economic activity into harmony with the planet and to make the kinds of transformative and revolutionary investments that will lay the foundations for centuries of prosperity and sustainability.
Young people get this, no matter how much money the oil and gas industry spends on propaganda and lobbying. Young people get that we have to get our act together and that our success, not just as a country but as a species, depends upon making these changes, taking our cues from science and cleaning up our act.[…]
The evidence is clear and has been clear for decades that if we don’t get greenhouse gas emissions under control and if we don’t decarbonize energy production, then climate change poses a dire threat to our health, to our economy and to our security. We’ve already seen this in Georgia. We’ve seen the effects on our state’s agricultural sector of intensifying tropical storms, storm surge, high-wind events, drought, higher temperatures and increased fire risk, which all has great implications for human health. Step one is making the aggressive investments in clean and renewable energy necessary to get carbon emissions under control and build an economy that is sustainable.
Rev. Warnock has long fought for environmental sustainability and justice. He convened a meeting on climate change with leaders advocating for climate action. While serving as senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta starting in 2005, he initiated “Project Green: Sustainable Ebenezer” to involve church members in environmental projects. At the same time, he’s sought to teach environmentalists about the connections between pollution, race, and poverty. He has voiced support for building a 100% clean energy infrastructure by 2050 that ensures the needs of people most affected by climate change are focused on in the plans to make the transition away from fossil fuels.
At his website, he states, “The flooding and extreme weather we have seen in coastal Georgia and across the South are sobering reminders of how devastating climate change can be in our daily lives, especially in underserved and rural communities.” Also:
that solutions to climate change are moral issues and that we can act on the consensus that already exists among Americans by ignoring Washington special interests and putting effective, common sense policies in place. Starting with rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and restoring America’s place as a leader in the fight for climate justice we can achieve this.
As senator, he says he would:
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and build upon the international commitment to fighting climate change;
- Work to reverse the Trump Administration’s attack on the Environmental Protection Agency and standards for clean air and water;
- Prepare Georgia’s coastline for rising sea-levels with investments in green infrastructure, structural reinforcement and climate science;
- Push for investment in resources, infrastructure, and education in communities of color to benefit in energy cost savings;
- Advocate for marginalized people to receive training and education to participate in the green new economy and jobs;
- Set goals for carbon reduction and robust climate standards for newly manufactured cars and infrastructure;
- Encourage investment in clean energy and commit to transitioning to a clean economy by 2050; and
- Hold polluters and utility companies accountable.
These two are on the right track. Making serious national progress in dealing with the climate crisis any time soon depends on getting them elected.