Democratic Party platform weakens commitment to climate change action

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, September 4, 2012 10:32 EDT
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A polar bear. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The Democratic Party’s 2012 platform no longer pledges to free Americans from the tyranny of big oil, dropping the prior platform’s hard-line support for renewable energy for an “all-of-the-above” strategy favored by President Barack Obama and his Republican rivals.

While the platform does still call for an international deal to curtail the types of pollution that accelerate climate change, it does not say that the agreement should be binding, as it did in 2008. The platform also drops the party’s 2008 support for the “cap and trade” scheme Democrats failed to pass in 2010. Delegates at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina are expected to approve the platform on Tuesday.

“Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging
powers,” the platform explains. “Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically – through regulation and market solutions – is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice.”

The party’s 2008 platform (PDF) saw things a little differently. “Global climate change is the planet’s greatest threat, and our response will determine the very future of life on this earth,” Democrats wrote. “Despite the efforts of our current Administration to deny the science of climate change and the need to act, we still believe that America can be earth’s best hope. We will implement a market-based cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic change and we will set interim targets along the way to ensure that we meet our goal.”

The administration says that Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy has seen the U.S. reduce its foreign oil imports by about 10 percent while domestic energy production is at an all-time-high. Obama has also directed significant investments into the development of new clean energy technologies, dedicating more government seed money to the sector than any president to come before him.

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform contains a similar shift to the right, albeit a much more dramatic one.

The Republican Party’s 2008 platform (PDF) at least paid lip service to climate science, calling for “reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment” coming from energy production. It even mirrored the Democratic Party’s call for “technology-drive, market-based solutions to decrease emissions, reduce excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, increase energy efficiency, mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs, and maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy.”

All of that went out the door this year, and the 2012 Republican Party platform (PDF) makes no mention of climate change except to criticize Obama for focusing on it as a legitimate threat. They also call for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, provided that energy comes from coal, oil, gas or nuclear sources. No mentions are made of supporting research in renewable energy technology, and the word “emissions” doesn’t even appear once.

Added, both candidates at the top of the Republican ticket, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), have said they doubt climate science. And even though he worked to combat climate change during his time as governor, Romney mocked Obama’s focus on mitigating the threat in his convention speech last week. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” he said to a chorus of laughter. “My promise is to help you and your family.”

U.S. space agency NASA says that unless big steps are taken to reduce emissions and limit the environmental impacts of climate change, droughts and heat waves will become the new norm over the next century along with increased incidents of severe weather, rising sea levels forcing large-scale migrations away from coastal areas, major conflicts over natural resources and even mass extinctions that could wipe out up to half the species on earth.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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