The science is settled – climate change is here and is already happening. For the past three decades climate scientists have warned that we must dramatically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to avoid catastrophic climate destabilization. And yet the United States has yet to pass the legislative framework needed to shift away from a carbon-based economy.
With the threat of climate change staring us in the face, it’s not hard to understand why there has been so little progress on this issue: enormous political spending by the fossil fuels industry, which has prevented the passage of CO2 regulation. As our friends at Common Cause recently pointed out, since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, political debate around climate change has changed significantly. Prior to the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate spending in elections, there was legislation with bipartisan support to put a market-wide cap on carbon dioxide pollution. The House of Representatives even passed a “cap and trade” bill in 2009. In 2000, even George W. Bush campaigned on climate change, although he reneged on his promise as soon as he got elected. Fast forward to 2014 – climate change is rarely mentioned by many members of Congress – and sometimes denied outright.
"The polluters give and spend money to keep polluting," says U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), quoted in a recent article by Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Not truth, not science, not economics, not safety, not policy, and certainly not religion, nor morality ‒- nothing supports climate denial. Nothing except money. But in Congress, in this temple, money rules; so here I stand, in one of the last places on Earth that is still a haven to climate denial."
Fortunately there’s a solution. The Democracy for All Amendment would give Congress and state legislatures the ability to set reasonable limits on the amount of money that can be spent in political elections. To date, over three million Americans have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, and dozens of organizations have begun collaborating around the need for campaign finance reform.
To deal with global challenges like climate change – the United States must be able to pass laws and lead with the best interests of the people in mind – not the best interests of multinational corporations. As many environmental groups now realize, the best way to combat climate change may be to pass campaign finance reform.