A cadre of Obama-era heavy hitters led by John Podesta fired up another effort Wednesday to put global warming at the forefront of the presidential campaign, this time by linking President Trump’s skepticism of a climate doomsday to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Mr. Podesta, the former Obama White House chief of staff who chaired Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid, unveiled Climate Power 2020 with a blast at Mr. Trump’s “anti-science policies,” which he said have “fueled the pandemic.”
“President Trump must be held accountable for his rejection of science, facts, and reality. For both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, the anti-science policies from this administration are pushing our nation into crisis,” Mr. Podesta said in a written statement.
In addition to Mr. Podesta, the advisory board features San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, the Democratic Party’s largest individual donor and a candidate for the party’s presidential nomination, as well as Obama administration figures including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and science adviser John Holdren.
“Today, it fueled a pandemic,” Mr. Podesta said. “Tomorrow, we will see the consequences in a world destabilized by climate change. Climate Power 2020 will change the politics of climate — pushing all candidates to aggressively campaign on climate action and holding science-denying campaigns accountable.”
Skeptics called the link between climate change and COVID-19 a stretch — given that the virus originated late last year in Wuhan, China, a signatory to the 2015 Paris climate agreement — while noting that this isn’t the first time Democratic power brokers have sought to push climate to the electoral forefront.
JunkScience.com’s Steve Milloy, a member of the Trump Environmental Protection Agency transition team, called it “the umpteenth time the usual cast of climate leftovers have been reheated.”
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano. “The climate activists led by Podesta, Kerry, Holdren and Steyer are desperate to keep ‘climate change’ alive in the presidential campaign, so they are trying to tie climate to COVID and blame both on President Trump.”
They have their work cut out for them, given that climate change has consistently ranked at or near the bottom of voters’ concerns. A Harris Poll survey for Inerjys Ventures released Tuesday found that 62% of U.S. adults surveyed said climate change wouldn’t damage the U.S. economy if left unaddressed.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in June showed that most Americans were unwilling to install solar panels, carpool or take the bus, reduce meat-eating, pay an additional $100 in taxes, drive an electric car or spend $100 more on their annual electricity bill to fight climate change.
With the coronavirus outbreak, however, Democrats and climate activists have sought to whip up outrage by “morphing viral fears into climate fears,” said Mr. Morano, whose “Climate Hustle 2” is expected to be released by early June.
“They are jealous of the swift, all-encompassing virus-induced lockdowns, and they want in on the action,” he said in an email. “Podesta has suspended science and common sense in claims to hold President Trump ‘accountable’ for ‘both COVID-19 and the climate crisis.’ This is all nothing more than lowbrow election-year politicking.”
Too deferential to scientists?
Still, with savvy strategists like Mr. Podesta and deep pockets like Mr. Steyer in the mix, there is no doubt Climate Power 2020 has the political and financial juice to push its message.
An independent project of the leftist Center for American Progress Action Fund — Mr. Podesta founded the center in 2003 — the campaign has partnered with the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters and is focusing on eight potential swing states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The campaign’s launch included a 90-minute online video that showed store shelves picked clean during the coronavirus crisis juxtaposed with shots of hurricanes and flooding.
“Americans are facing a future in crisis from coronavirus to climate change,” said the narrator. “President Trump is failing to protect us. He doesn’t believe in science. He ignores experts. And he denies the facts.”
H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the free market Heartland Institute, pointed out that “scientists haven’t said that climate change has caused the coronavirus.” If anything, he said, the president has been accused of relying too heavily on White House public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“As far as following the science, in my opinion, Trump has been too deferential to scientists during this pandemic,” said Mr. Burnett. “I mean, Fauci changes his mind every two weeks on what we should do, and policy lurches back and forth, and Democrats in their states only latch onto Fauci’s statements that support their position that we should shut down the economy forever.”
Has climate change fueled an increase in disease? A study released May 8 by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation found the opposite. It reported dramatic reductions in climate-related mortality over the past 30 years, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose.
The report by science and policy analyst Indur M. Goklany, a U.S. delegate to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, found that “cumulative annual rates of deaths and disease from [climate-sensitive disease and events] are declining, and declining faster than the corresponding all-cause rates.”
“You see improvement across the board, but most notably there has been a wholesale rolling-back of the biggest killers like diarrhea and malaria,” said Mr. Goklany, who holds a doctoral degree in electrical engineering.
His report refutes the thrust of the 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, which warned that a “changing climate has profound implications for human health, with more frequent heatwaves and extreme weather events, changing patterns of infectious disease, and the exacerbation of existing health challenges around the world.”
Mr. Goklany said that the U.N.-affiliated researchers “highlight comparatively rare conditions, like dengue, which have worsened, while ignoring the wider picture, which is almost all good news. It’s highly misleading.”
The pandemic-caused economic downturn may have hurt the prospects of climate policies such as the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat. The proposal’s price tag has been estimated in the tens of trillions of dollars, said Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
“Almost all U.S. politicians who have tried to make climate change an election issue in the past have fared miserably, losing election after election,” Mr. Peiser said. “Repeating the same mistake and trying to sell the Green New Deal to voters in an unprecedented economic crisis and expecting different results borders on political delusion, if not insanity.”