’We’ Climate Campaign: Glossy, But Will It Work?
Politicians, of course, follow public opinion, and that’s what the We Campaign is trying to influence. But it’s fair to question just how successful the ads have been. 2008 was supposed to be the year that climate change finally became a major issue in a Presidential election, yet global warming has been anything but hot on the campaign trail. Both candidates can claim at least a little greenness – though John McCain’s environmental record has been tarnished in recent months – but the reality is that candidates aren’t talking about climate change because it’s not high on the list of voter priorities. Sky-high gas prices are, however, and many voters have responded more positively to McCain’s call to expand offshore drilling than Barack Obama’s more measured plans for alternative power and energy efficiency. The We Campaign proudly claims that it has enlisted more than 1.5 million people so far. That’s an impressive number, but a more pertinent number might be 3: the number of supervisors for Santa Barbara County in California who voted in support of offshore oil drilling – one more than the number who voted against. We’s message is getting lost in the noise of recession and high energy prices.
The ads themselves haven’t been exempt from criticism either, even from the campaign’s green allies. Newt Gingrich was part of the original series of ads, paired with his opposite number, Nancy Pelosi. But the truth is that Gingrich, though he published a greenish book last year called A Contract with the Earth, doesn’t really support the We Campaign’s goals – a fact that was made clear this summer when he mounted a new crusade in favor of virtually limitless oil drilling. That’s not exactly the fault of the We Campaign, but it does point to the real challenge of what Gore and his allies have set out to do. Slowing carbon emissions, let alone reaching Gore’s goal of 100% carbon-free electricity in a decade, will require sweeping changes in governmental policy – the kind of changes that can’t be achieved with a narrow majority of Democrats. Greens will need to appeal to liberals, conservatives and everyone in between. But the pace of the 2008 election has showed that while Americans may increasingly agree that climate change is a problem, we’re far from agreeing just what to do about it. It’s a nice start, but we’re not quite We yet.