The 2016 election may come down to a crucial choice for voters — global warming versus economic growth.
Democrats, energized by the agreement with China brokered by President Barack Obama calling for both countries to make steep cutbacks in power plant emissions over the next 16 years, believe that global warming is the issue which could propel them to victory in 2016.
Republicans, on the other hand, voice serious concerns that moves in the U.S. to cut power plant and automobile emissions could cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars and are digging in to oppose any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the administration to pursue severe emission cutbacks.
"That dynamic sets up climate change as a potentially explosive issue on the 2016 campaign trail, which may pit Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton against a field of Republican candidates who question and deny the science that human activity causes global warming," The New York Times reports.
The Times calls the agreement a "bet by the president and Democrats that on the issue of climate change, American voters are far ahead of Washington’s warring factions and that the environment will be a winning cause in the 2016 presidential campaign."
Global warming concerns could give Democrats an edge, the Times notes, depending on who votes in 2016, as Hispanics, younger voters and unmarried women, traditionally a Democratic-leaning slice of the electorate and much of Obama's faithful following, feel strongly about climate change.
Calling them, along with black voters, the Rising American Electorate (RAE), the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
found that the RAE favors pro-environment candidates more than the overall electorate, 51 percent to 45 percent.
Hispanics would favor such a candidate by 65 percent and black voters and unmarried women by 53 percent.
"These groups were hugely important in the 2008 and 2012 elections and they will be more important in 2016, because they are starting to make up a greater portion of the electorate," Anthony A. Leiserowitz, Yale project director, told the Times.
A Pew Center poll
finds that 64 percent of the population favors stricter emission controls, while 31 percent oppose them. While 77 percent of Democrats in the poll favor strict emission controls, Republicans are evenly split on the issue at 47 percent.
But are the Democrats right?
Republican strategist Mike Murphy told the Times, "They’re [Democrats] giving Republicans fertile ground for attack. Overregulation is clearly a job killer and jobs and the economy and middle-class wages are going to be a huge issue in the 2016 presidential race."
Under the Obama agreement, the Federalist wrote,
"The United States pledges to impede its own economic growth right now, in significant ways, while China will be free to continue building coal-powered plants, expand its economy and cement its place as the world’s leading polluter — perhaps even doubling their output against ours."
"Despite voters’ tendency to tell pollsters climate change concerns them, the fact is, not a single midterm race was primarily focused on climate change. Not a single candidate, denier or not, lost an election because of his or her position on climate change."
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