A Look at U.S. Midterm Election Results Through Green and Green-Sports Lenses

To borrow from Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, results from last week’s U.S. midterm elections from environmental and climate change points of view, were a bit of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Sometime, You Get What You Need.”

What was needed is what happened: The Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. This will end one party rule in Washington come January, providing a seat at the table for pro-climate action forces where they had none before.

But the best the House can do, given control of the Senate and White House by climate change deniers and skeptics, will be to serve as a crucial check on the anti-environmental instincts of the Trump Administration. Those hoping for positive climate action from Washington will likely have to wait awhile.

Green-Sports largely fared well on Election Day. The efforts of Protect Our Winters (POW), a group of elite active and retired winter sports athletes who lobby elected officials at the federal and state level for pro-climate legislation, and its Action Fund, were more successful than not, especially in key winter sports states. 

Today’s GreenSportsBlog post looks at the election wins and losses, through both Green and Green-Sports lenses. 

 

THE WINS

Climate of Hope In The Newly Democratic House

That the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives is a good thing for the environment and the climate change fight. 

“The elections were definitely good news,” declared Allen Hershkowitz, co-founder of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI). “Many people who support and respect sound climate science were elected. And many who stymied increased governmental action on climate were thrown out.”

At a minimum, the new Democratic majority will use House congressional committees to investigate and slow President Trump’s environmental deregulatory agenda. “Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have been ignored,” noted Hershkowitz. “That will certainly be explored.”

When the new Congress convenes in January, climate change skeptic Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who currently chairs the House Subcommittee on the Environment, will hand the gavel over to Democrat Suzanne Bonamici. She represents Oregon’s first district, which covers the suburbs west of Portland. Bonamici has a lifetime score of 98 (100 is perfect) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which rates Members of Congress based on their votes on environmental issues. That’s a big improvement vs. Biggs, whose LCV score is a paltry 6.

 

Suzanne Bonamici

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), likely to be the new chair of the House Subcommittee on the Environment (Photo credit: Michael Lloyd, The Oregonian)

 

And, if this week is any guide, the young cadre of new Democratic House members is going to push party establishment to move faster and stronger on climate than was the case in 2009-11, the last time the party was in control. 

On Tuesday, close to 200 climate activists, including incoming high-profile Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), jammed into the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), who hopes to re-assume the position of House speaker. Per David Roberts, writing in Wednesday’s edition of Voxthey called on Pelosi to lead the Democrats “in developing an ambitious, comprehensive plan to address climate change — a Green New Deal.” 

 

 

 

Protect Our Winters (POW) and its Action Fund Helped Push Climate-Friendly Candidates and Issues Across the Finish Line in Snow Sports States

The POW Action Fund, which “supports [candidates and] elected officials who will take legitimate action on climate,” saw their get-out-the-vote efforts pay off in three important races in mountain west states with big winter sports industries.

 

Alex Deibold, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington on POW_s September 2017 Lobby Trip to Washington DC Forest Woodward Athletes

Protect Our Winters athletes, including from left to right, snowboarders Alex Deibold, Kaitlyn Farrington and Gretchen Bleiler, helped support climate-friendly clients at the federal and state levels (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

  • Jared Polis, who pushed for the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy goal — 100 percent by 2040 — became governor-elect of Colorado.
  • In Montana, Democratic Senator Jon Tester won re-election with a narrow 15,000 vote win. The POW Action Fund gave Tester one of its first endorsements based on his support of Montana’s growing renewable energy industry and its strong outdoor recreation economy.
  • Steve Sisolak rode a strong protect-public lands and renewable energy platform to the governor’s mansion in Nevada. Voters in the Silver State also approved a ballot measure that requires electric utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, up from around 25 percent today.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 9.33.33 AM

Montana Democrat Jon Tester won re-election to the U.S. Senate thanks in part to the efforts of the POW Action Fund (Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

 

THE LOSSES

New Republican Senators Have Weaker Environmental Records Than Their Democratic Predecessors

Republicans flipped at least three senate seats, with a fourth more likely than not going their way (Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott has a 12,000~ vote lead over incumbent senator Bill Nelson pending a hand recount). Each of the incoming senate rookies look to be significant downgrades on the environment and climate than their Democratic predecessors. 

FLORIDA: Bill Nelson has a solid LCV lifetime scorecard rating of 71. Rick Scott, as a two-term governor of Florida, does not have a LCV scorecard (they only score senators and house members). But, according to Kevin Clark, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Governor Scott regularly put the wishes of corporate polluters above the needs of Florida’s environment and families. He’s sided with a fringe movement of climate change deniers, defunded popular and bipartisan conservation programs, and undermined the enforcement of air, water, and climate protections.” 

INDIANA: Democrat Joe Donnelly will exit the senate with a middlin’ 59 LCV score. His Republican successor, businessman Mike Braun, has no environmental record. But he did answer “strongly disagree” to the question “Are additional regulations necessary to prevent climate change?” 

MISSOURI: Claire McCaskill, outgoing Democratic Senator from the Show Me State, had a strong 74 lifetime LCV score. Her replacement, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, cheered President Trump’s decision to scuttle the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

NORTH DAKOTA: North Dakota has been dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of Fracked Natural Gas.” Thus it is no surprise that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp often sided with the extractive industries. Still, she was able to earn a 52 lifetime LCV score. Incoming GOP Senator Kevin Cramer? During his tenure in the House, he compiled a 1 LCV score. You read that right. 

 

Kevin Cramer

North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer brings a lowly score of 1 (out of 100) the League of Conservation Voters to his new job in the U.S. Senate (Photo credit: Rick Abbott, Forum News Service)

 

Climate Bipartisanship Weakened

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), the most vocal Republican in Congress calling for action to address climate change, narrowly lost his South Florida seat to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who accused him of not going far enough on the environment.

Curbelo was the co-founder of the bi-partisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, along with Democrat Ted Deutsch (FL-22). It was set up to explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of climate change. To join the Caucus, a Democratic House member must bring along a Republican partner in a Noah’s Ark sort of way. The election was a bloodbath for GOP caucus members — 21 will not be returning in January (13 lost and 8 retired).

 

Carlos Curbelo

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), co-founder of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, lost his re-election bid (Photo credit: Tom Williams, AP)

 

Carbon Pricing Ballot Initiative Defeated in Washington

In Washington State, voters rejected an initiative that would have imposed the country’s first tax on carbon dioxide. Economists have long said that carbon taxes would be an important tool for fighting climate change. Make it more expensive to pollute, the theory goes, and companies will quickly find ways to reduce their emissions. The YES vote was ahead in the polls by a significant margin in early October. Then fossil fuel industry groups pumped more than $31 million into the campaign and the proposal went down. 

 

THE UPSHOT

I see three key outcomes from last week’s election regarding the environment and climate:

  1. Positive governmental action on climate will likely continue to come from the states and not Washington for at least the next two years. New governors in Colorado and Nevada, assisted in their victories by Protect Our Winters Action Fund, will play important roles.
  2. The states will remain the most effective climate policy laboratories because, despite the Democrats winning control of the House, short-term gains on climate in Washington are unlikely. Republicans, whose leadership remains solidly in the climate denial/skeptic camp, still run the Senate and, of course, the White House. A smaller Climate Solutions Caucus in the House will need be a beacon of bipartisan leadership.
  3. With Congress gridlocked on climate and the President heading in the wrong direction, Green-Sports’ role will become more important. “The opposition from the White House on positive climate action will stall any movement at the federal level,” asserted Allen Hershowitz. “That is why work and progress on climate from the high profile sports sector is more important than ever.”

 


 

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New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux

About two years ago, I wrote a post in which I imagined myself Commissioner of (Green) Sports. In that idyllic world (at least to me), I gave myself powers to unilaterally enact any Green-Sports initiative I wanted. In a nod to the popular segment on Bill Maher’s HBO show, Real Time, I entitled the post “New Rules for Green Sports.” Despite the autocratic leanings of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania and my own strong love for democracy, I thought it’s time to once again put on my regal vestments and offer you, my subjects, er, readers, “New Rules for Green Sports, Part Deux.^”

 

 

Mike Francesa, the pompous, yet immensely popular host of New York’s SportsRadio WFAN’s afternoon gab fest is often termed the “Sports Pope.” I wonder, if Pope Francis is aware of Francesa’s moniker, how He feels about sharing the pontifical stage. 

Francesa

Mike “Sports Pope” Francesa, pontificating. (Photo credit: Awful Announcing)

 

I have no interest in being the Green-Sports Pope. There should be only one Pope, period (sorry, Mike). And I think Francis, who has aggressively embraced the climate change fight, per his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, is fantastic. 

Still, I wouldn’t mind having a smidge of unilateral power, just for one day, to be able to enact some Green-Sports initiatives that would help accelerate the climate change fight.

For that, my model is not the Pope, but rather an anti-Pope of sorts: Bill Maher. Host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill MaherBorn Catholic but staunchly atheist. Maher ends each episode of his show with New Rules in which imagines enacting his own rules for politics and life in general. 

 

Bill Maher and New Rules from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, original air date May 4, 2017. (Courtesy HBO and YouTube)

 

Riffing off of Maher, we ran a New Rules for Green-Sports column in February, 2015. Here are three of them:

  • Every broadcast of a sports event must air at least one 30 second Public Service Announcement (PSA) themed to the climate change fight. While this hasn’t happened yet, there have been Green-Sports themed PSAs seen on NBA TV and the NHL Network. Good start, but we need to pick up the pace.

 

NBA Green Energy All-Star video (0:58)

 

  • Auto racing (that’s NASCAR, F-1, Indy, drag racing, etc) must commit to using only Electric Vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Formula-E, the EV circuit, continues to grow. Who knows? With the power, efficiency of EVs going up and the price coming down, this could be possible.

 

  • Fans who travel to games via mass transit, drive EVs or hybrids get a rebate, paid for from parking revenues. Fans who come by bike or walk also qualify. UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, ran a program during the EURO 2016 championships in France, in which fans with tickets to games in some cities could ride the Metro for free. A step in the right direction.

 


I know what you are thinking: “Lew, we need some new New Rules!” So, without further ado, we reveal our New Rules of Green-Sports, Part Deux!

New Green-Sports Rule #1Every Major League Baseball team and every Major League Soccer club must have a Climate Change Solutions Day on or around Earth Day. MLB and MLS are the only North American pro sports leagues in the midst of their regular seasons on Earth Day. Each team in those sports must host Climate Change Solutions Day at a game on or close to April 22. Climate Change Solutions Day will include:

  • Having a climate scientist throw out the first pitch/make a ceremonial first kick
  • Running a video on the scoreboard about what the team is doing to reduce carbon emissions
  • 10% of all ticket revenue will go to a climate change fighting non-profit

Might this offend some climate change skeptics or deniers? Sure but so what! Fans boo a pitching change they don’t like, some fans will boo a video. Life will go on. And young fans, for whom climate change is a priority, will, in the main, think this is cool. That is especially important for MLB, which has struggled to attract younger demographics.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #2Each stadium and arena will have at least one vegan-only food stand. As long-time readers of GreenSportsBlog know, our vote for Greenest Sports Team in the World goes to Forest Green Rovers, the fifth division (equivalent to the low minor leagues in baseball) English soccer club, owned by a renewable energy CEO. FGR, among other green innovations, only serves vegan food at its concession stands. According to club owner Dale Vince, fans were angry at first but now are supportive of the vegan-only approach (“[many fans say] it’s inspired them to go veggie – which is a great thing.”) Our rule does not look to shock the sports system here in North America so all we’re demanding is that teams have a vegan only stand, not go all-vegan. Maybe next year.

 

Eight minute video shows fan reaction to Forest Green Rovers’ greening efforts, including its vegan-only concession stands.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #3Super Bowls, College Football Championship Games, NCAA Men’s and Women’s Tournament Games/Final Fours, and US (golf) Opens cannot be awarded to states whose governors do not publicly state “climate change is real, humans are the main cause and we need to take meaningful steps to solve the problems.” North Carolina lost out on hosting NCAA Men’s basketball tournament games because of its “bathroom bill” requiring transgender students to use school bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender. The Tar Heel State’s hoops addiction led the state legislature to change the law, sort of. Let’s apply that approach to climate change. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), you want to deny climate change? Fine. No college football championship game in Tampa. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), you want to question the science behind climate change? Go right ahead but that Super Bowl you want for Dallas is going to go to Jerry Brown’s “carbon free by 2050” California.

 

New Green-Sports Rule #4Teams that broadcast their climate change-fighting actions receive a tax break. Teams across all sports, in all markets, are greening their games in many ways. That’s why we’ve been able to write over 400 posts about Green-Sports in less than four years. But precious few fans seem to know about it. Teams seem loath to push Green-Sports stories and, even more so, to make the link between their greening efforts and the climate change fight. We offered a stick in Green-Sports Rule #3; in Rule #4 we provide teams with carrots—dollars from the government in exchange for promoting their work on climate change to fans. In arena/stadium and on the air.

 

Now, you might say, “Lew, you are ahead of the general public here. Shouldn’t you go more slowly?” To that I say, “Go big or go home!” Plus these are my New Green-Sports Rules. I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to add some in the comments section.

 

^ Part Deux is an homage to the people of France, who said NON to xenophobia and authoritarianism and said an emphatic OUI on behalf science and the climate change fight when they elected Emmanuel Macron to the Presidency on Sunday.

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