Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is the first American presidential candidate to commit to making the US powered by 100% green energy by 2050. O’Malley said yesterday that, “given the grave threat that climate change poses to human life on our planet, we have not only a business imperative but a moral obligation to future generations to act immediately and aggressively.”
O’Malley is a long shot to trump Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he also trails Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in all polls, the latter having a strong and lengthy environmental record.
Still, O’Malley’s endorsement of a full transition away from dirty fossil fuels and towards renewable energy on a time frame shows that he acknowledges the realities of climate change recently underscored by the G7, investors, global business leaders and most recently, Pope Francis.
While the size and diversity of calls for taking on climate action continue to expand, the beginnings of the 2016 American presidential campaign season don’t yet reflect that reality. There are already a dozen declared Republican presidential candidates — and almost all of them are on record opposing meaningful climate action. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush decided his first comment reacting to Pope Francis’ Encyclical would be to stand against Pope Francis after His Holiness declared that, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.
It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Bush’s and other Republican candidates’ responses to the Pope have already earned a rare and swift rebuke from the Vatican. While Bush and other conservative leaders are unlikely to change their politics, O’Malley’s climate stance reflects the realities acknowledged by scientists, doctors, economists and increasingly,voters. O’Malley’s stance on climate alone isn’t likely to vault him over the large electoral hurdles he faces, but as the momentum for climate action continues to grow, candidates will be placed in a position to either be climate leaders or laggards.
— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) June 18, 2015
• Endorsing a full transition away from dirty energy towards renewables is the clearest way for a leader to stand up for climate action. Analysis shows that phasing out fossil fuels before the end of the century gives the world a 66% chance of limiting global warming to safe levels. The risk goes down considerably if that time table is accelerated to 2050, which is a deadline many business leaders, and now one presidential support, in the name of growing the economy and reducing economic risks.
• Having a pro-climate political agenda is good for American jobs, Americans’ health and future generations. An analysis conducted by the NewClimate Institute found that the main elements of the United States’ current plan to address climate change will deliver nearly 470,000 jobs by 2030 and cut air pollution—preventing roughly 7,000 premature deaths each year. If US leaders stepped up their game and set the country on a path towards an economy that is powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050, it would secure around 650,000 new jobs by 2030, and prevent the deaths of around 27,000 lives per year.
• Political leaders standing up for climate action are joining a massive and diverse chorus of supporters around the world. The calls for addressing climate change have come from business leaders, investors and heads of state around the world. Global citizens continue to organize massive demonstrations for climate action, and in the US, climate change is steadily rising as an issue that voters care about. Taking climate action seriously certainly requires leadership, but it’s clear those who lead will have plenty of followers.
Andrew Shenkel is US Editor, the Global Call for Climate Action