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The Climate Change Struggle - An Effective Opposition Model For Democrats

Updated on August 20, 2017

The Climate Change Struggle-An Effective Opposition Model For Democrats

The November 2016 United States Presidential election victory of Donald Trump was an incredible shock to the Democratic party. It left them depressed and searching to place blame. They were bereft of ideas on how to fight back against the impending Republican executive and legislative onslaughts. Most of the Democratic congressional leaders were older politicians steeped in the processes of working methodically within the federal government to enact the legislation they believed in.

The grassroots of the party and other progressive groups knew instinctively what they needed to do. They took to the streets and into legislative offices to loudly and without reservation protest the executive actions of President Trump as well as proposed Republican congressional legislation. On the other hand, Democratic leaders seemed to have very little idea on how to respond beyond several dissenting pronouncements. The progressive grassroots was mobilized as never before despite this Democratic party paralysis.

The immigration ban was the clearest example of these contrasting states of action. Progressive groups took to the streets, airports, and courts with a gusto not seen since the civil rights era. They were successful in getting it blocked. There was little the Democrats in Congress could do.

President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the international Paris Climate Accord was the last straw for Democratic local and state executives. They finally found a way to oppose the Trump administration on this issue and it could prove to be a model for future Democratic opposition.

Once again the Democrats in Congress could offer little more than public denunciations. The Governors and Mayors knew that this withdrawal was an existential threat to their localities and the world. Forceful and substantive action was needed to help to mitigate the effects of this Trump administration decision. After all, we were now joining only Syria and Nicaragua as nations not a part of the Paris Accord.

What lessons did these state and local leaders learn and what actions were they compelled to take for the benefits of their citizens? The answers to this question might prove to be the Democratic party's path to real opposition to the Trump administration's policies that are a direct threat to their values and goals.

I will begin this Hub with a brief summary of the historic steps taken that led up to the Paris Climate Accord. Then I will outline the Republican opposition to the scientific analysis of climate change and how it led to President Trump's withdrawal from the accord.

The reactions and concrete steps that American localities are taking in response to this withdrawal will then be summarized. I will also show how they are being undertaken to support the Paris Accord's goals.

Finally I will examine how these actions can be a template for Democrats and all groups to concretely oppose this administration's policies and return progressive policies back to relevancy in the United States.

A large and extensive body of scientific research was conducted during the 1970's and 1980's concluding that the Earth's climate was seriously warming and that human generated CO2 emissions were the major cause. This caused the international community to create the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to further research the problem and to develop possible actions to lessen or alleviate the emissions that are causing climate change.

This convention's research led to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change agreed to in 1997. It went into force in 2005 with 192 countries participating. The United States Congress never ratified it and President George W. Bush allowed the issue to remain dormant. It eventually faded into the dustbin of congressional bureaucracy. Canada withdrew in 2012. The other countries had various mandates that they attempted to fulfill with various levels of success. This protocol is still in effect and expires in 2020.

The international process that led up to the Paris Agreement on global climate change was initially created as a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. It soon became clear that the problem had grown greatly since 1997. The new process was now focused on strengthening and expanding upon it.

The agreement was passed by all of the international representatives except for two in 2015. It is scheduled to go into effect in 2020 when the Kyoto Protocol expires. The key differences in these two climate change agreements lie in how each country implements their goals and to what extent.

The Kyoto Protocol assigned to the participating signatory nations firm mandates on the level of cuts in their CO2 emissions that they would work to fulfill. Participation and goals were lower with that agreement but the mandates were concrete and largely adhered to.

The Paris Agreement is a more widespread accord with almost unanimous support. Each country has pledged to cut emissions over time to levels that they they have agreed to be feasible for them. Their goals are stronger and broader but give each nation much more flexibility.

Why did President Trump feel compelled to withdraw from this crucial international climate agreement? The vast majority of the world's scientists and political leaders recognize that climate change is an existential threat to the earth's future viability.

Unfortunately the U.S. political system is often beholden to the economic interests that feed the electoral process. Therefore many of the political leaders strongly follow the wishes of the fossil fuel industry because it is one the largest and wealthiest business sectors in our economy.

The Republican party receives the bulk of the energy sector's political contributions. As a result, they have no qualms about "carrying their water" in the congressional halls to protect and enhance their industry.

This political stance is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the solar energy industry and other alternative renewable energy sources are rapidly increasing in their affordability and profitability. They appear to be the future of energy in the United States. Therefore it is puzzling as to why the fossil fuel companies and their Republican allies are not getting in on these promising industries in their early stages.

President Trump is at the forefront of this Republican view and is redoubling their efforts to support the fossil fuel industry. He has constantly railed against government regulations of all types and that included those imposed on the oil and coal companies. He consistently advocated for offshore drilling and Alaskan oil exploration. Trump also denounced the Obama administration's blocking of the Keystone Pipeline project.

He has strongly reinforced these views by nominating and successfully installing Scott Pruitt as his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief. Pruitt was previously Oklahoma's Attorney General. He filed lawsuits on behalf of Oklahoma opposing almost any EPA regulations that were created as well as many of the already existing regulations.

President Trump could not have picked anyone more suitable to his own extreme environmental deregulation ideology than Scott Pruitt. The new EPA chief has stuck by his past history and is already systematically eliminating all regulations on environmental protection that he considers a detriment to American businesses.

Therefore it is easy to see why President Trump renounced the Paris Accord even though none of its wording is binding upon the United States or any other nation. He was simply looking to placate his fossil fuel industry benefactors as well as his Tea Party base.

The reactions to President Trump's Paris Accord withdrawal were powerful and swift. Other nations denounced the move as well as many political leaders around the U.S. Much of the opposition within America came from Democratic and independent leaders. Not all were politicians. Far from it.

Scientists and corporate leaders were for the most part very negative in their reactions to this withdrawal. Many denounced the Trump administration's disregard for the scientific research around climate change. Many were also puzzled as to why this extreme action was taken. President Trump had enormous discretion on the moves he had to make under the Paris Accord. Besides, corporate leaders were confident and on board with the impending protocols for cutting CO2 emissions. All of this is now in turmoil which they abhor.

The international signatories to the Paris Accord which consist of virtually all of the rest of the world immediately reaffirmed their total support for the agreement. They completely closed the door to President Trump's public statements that he wished to renegotiate the deal.

One very important political group within the U.S. responded to the Paris Accord withdrawal with strength and adamant defiance. Over two hundred mayors and ten governors including Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made public statements and promises that they would continue and where possible strengthen their anti-climate change programs.

They are acutely aware of the effects that climate change have already wreaked upon their localities. They also reached into the energies of the independent resistance movements already opposing Trump administration policies. This especially included the environmental protection groups.

These declarations were unprecedented and incredibly determined and defiant in the face of President Trump's anti-environmental policies including the Paris Accord withdrawal. They have been powerful and have re-energized the already potent grassroots Trump resistance. Have our progressive political leaders finally found an avenue of opposition against President Trump's backward looking policies that are both effective and powerful?

Democratic congressional leaders have had very little to offer their constituencies beyond vocal opposition to President Trump's policies and actions since he was elected. This opposition is important but it grows stale very soon if nothing more positive is offered. Opposition parties usually have nothing more that they can offer especially if they are a minority in both congressional houses.

All of that being said, President Trump still has delivered a political gift to the Democratic party. The Governors and Mayors have jumped on it. The Paris Accord renunciation has been widely and strongly criticized. These state and local leaders have their own climate change programs that they intend to retain and expand. They understand that this problem is an existential threat to America and the world.

Thankfully they are not backing down but instead doubling down. They are the true heroes for the potent "resistance" movement against President Trump's draconian policies. I believe that they are spot on with their climate change policies and programs. They should use this resistance model to inform their policies and programs to oppose other Trump policies in regards to immigration, law and order, and economic relief to name just a few.

Democratic congressional leaders have much less power now but they need to keep up a loud and pointed vocal opposition whenever possible. They also need to introduce sensible legislation in opposition to Trump administration policies. The Republican leadership will bury it but the American people will see that the Democrats have a thoughtful and positive alternative platform in contrast to President Trump.

President Trump and his administration's policies and actions are sowing the seeds for their own political demise. Democrats need to offer their own programs and legislation to show Americans who turned from them in 2016 that they are now willing to act in their interests in a more positive and concrete way. Otherwise they will not benefit electorally and will remain politically weak.

The Republican embrace of Trump and his incoherent policies and utterances have left them them extremely vulnerable in the next elections. The road is clear for a Democratic electoral renaissance. Simple vocal opposition to the President is important but far from enough to achieve resonance among the citizenry.

Real executive action by Governors and Mayors combined with positive congressional legislative bills will show Americans the way back to the Democratic party. I sincerely hope state and local leaders continue their strong opposition and Congress then follows their lead. Otherwise our country may remain subject to President Trump's dangerous policies beyond the 2018 elections.

Please urge your political leaders to keep up their positive opposition to this administration. Even more importantly, please get out and vote in an informed way in all elections. We saw what could happen in 2016 if we do not. Let's learn from that election to prevent any more incompetent and dangerous administrations.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      You are correct, Eric, that no one at least up to this point has changed their policies because of President Trump's Paris Accord withdrawal. What worries me greatly is the example it sets for both the world and industries within our country. I am very encouraged by the response of our local political leaders, corporate leaders, and the grassroots. My biggest immediate fear is the huge amount of environmental regulations that Trump's EPA chief Scott Pruitt is dismantling. Yes, some are outdated but not the vast majority. Thank you for your further comments.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I have very much enjoyed reading comments to this but no matter what it just has to creep in; "full force to oppose the draconian". The sky is falling again. Has anyone stopped being earth friendly because of Trump? Not where I live. Everyone seems to really try. And our industries make earth friendly stuff a selling point. From local organic to recycling to reusing. To carpools and vans.

      Something Trump did has caused all that to stop due to draconian measures?

      Beneath you.

    • profile image
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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      It is wonderful that the progressive grassroots is out in full force to oppose the draconian Trump policies. I do believe that Democratic leaders need to stay positive and offer solutions and policies. I absolutely agree that voters should ALWAYS go out and vote. Not just in Presidential elections. Thank you very much for your comments, Jo.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for your comments and compliment, Larry.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful analysis. Great read.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 3 months ago from Tennessee

      As one of those who took to the streets after the election but is also occasionally involved in local politics, I believe the Democratic Party has been working hard to energize its base and come up with a plan for upcoming elections. I've talked with some folks who are very actively involved and lots of folks are hard at work locally. Nationally, whatever they do right now might well be drowned out by the insanity in the current administration. They might do best to just sit back and watch this chaos explode and be there to pick up the pieces.

      That may just be wishful thinking. Great article and I agree with your advice to stay informed and get out and vote. And I might add, get involved in local politics.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for your comments and compliment, Gilbert. I totally agree that the threat to our environment that climate change poses is a horrible threat. Our Governors and Mayors recognize it and are acting appropriately and strenuously. Ivanka was shocked but she always capitulates to Dad. Opposition to him by all common sense imbued people is vital.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 3 months ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      A very well thought article, Howard. I'm glad many important politicians opposed Trump on pulling out of an important environmental program. Nothing is more important to Americans and nations around the world than clean air and ocean water. Ivanka Trump was even surprised her father pulled out of the Paris environmental program. You're right, the political environment is complicated with many pressing problems. President Trump can't pass every law he wants to unless he gets the support of congress.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you, Angel, for your compliment and comments.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 3 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      I wish midterms were today. Good read! Very well done.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I believe you are mistaken with the Heller Case. The Supreme Court struct down a prohibition on owning handguns in Washington D.C. on 2nd Amendment grounds. No one arrested the group for having handguns. The Alt Right group did have a permit but, to my knowledge, there was nothing prohibiting an opposing group from protesting their demonstration. As for climate change and Al Gore, no the sky isn't falling right now but the landslide is slowly gaining momentum. There won't be that ultimate landslide until it is too late. Yes, Al Gore has become in many quarters an anachronism but I and many others believe it is very real. Pushing it down the road will be quite a disaster in my opinion. Totally throwing out the Paris Accord was unnecessary. Thank you for your comments and rigorous debate, Eric.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I reckon I was mislead. My understanding was that one group had lawful permits and the others not. I think the Supreme Court case was Heller. Those lawfully protesting with permission and paying the fees have a right to assemble. Those who do not are criminal. How could the criminals be justified? They could not get a permit just to oppose.

      Correct me if I am wrong on that.

      Climate change has turned into an Al Gore debacle. Of course we need to lower footprints but the sky is not falling while he rides his SUV and flies on private jets.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you Eric. Yes we do differ in degrees. I actually thought President Trump was OK when he came out with a condemnation of the hate groups the following day. But then he shockingly reversed himself at that infrastructure news conference at Trump Tower. I also believe that the other groups defended themselves against the White Supremacist groups. Thank you for your further comments.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Oh make no mistake I found your work very professional and well written. Perhaps as in most things we simply disagree on degrees.

      I think the furor was about a delay in denouncing hate groups involved not a failure to do so.

      Why is it that BLM and that Antiffa group were not named along with others. Oh well it is Trump the politician I suppose.

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      Howard Schneider 3 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      The vast majority of the Republican party, especially in Congress, is working with the President on his policy agenda. Yes, McCain is an exception. Ryan and McConnell are not. They are also very reluctant to speak out against him when he says or tweets outrageous statements such as the one on Charlottesville. I did not hear Ryan or Trump speak out against him and certainly not by name. Most are afraid of a backlash against them from Trump's shrinking base. Thank you for your comments, Eric.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Did I read this right? "The Republican embrace of Trump and his incoherent policies and utterances have left them them extremely vulnerable in the next elections." There is a Republican embrace of Trump?

      Maybe you are speaking of McCain or Ryan or McConnell?