Election Referendum

The Democratic presidential nominee will have a chance to frame the upcoming election as a referendum on whether our environment will be preserved in a hospitable state.

That opportunity arises because of the Republican Party's discredited, albeit official policy of denial of human-generated climate change and its threats to civilization. Representing an opposing view, the Democratic presidential candidate could caution voters that our future quality of life hinges on the election's outcome.

Assuming the Republican presidential nominee retains his party's climate change denial posture throughout the campaign, the Democrat, by contrast, would come across on "the side of the angels". A clarion call for support would be issued to a concerned public, with the odds favoring a positive response, especially among the younger set of all political persuasions. It is they, after all, who have the most to lose if the future environment goes precipitously downhill.

Indeed, all Democratic candidates for national office should exploit the Republican Party's no-show attitude towards climate change's existential threat to mankind's wellbeing.

An ideal whipping boy for this campaign strategy is Senator James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the powerful chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe is the de facto environmental face of the GOP and has persistently sought to impede progress in addressing climate change.

Earlier this month on the Senate floor, he declared that President Obama's pledge at the recent historic Climate Change Conference in Paris "is not going to happen". The president had promised that the United States would reduce carbon emissions by some 25 percent over the next decade.

If the Republicans win the White House and retain control of both houses of Congress, Inhofe will undoubtedly keep is chairmanship and be in a position to make good on his prediction. The senator would also remain the environmental face of the GOP, a lawmaker steeped in climate change denial and often the source of diplomatic embarrassment. For example, he ridiculed the ceremonial signing of the Paris Climate change accord by more than 160 nations at the United Nations on Earth Day. Inhofe sarcastically invited the foreign dignitaries at the UN ceremony to sightsee America rather than waste their time signing a flawed document. It is a document that Inhofe rejects as part of "President Obama's detrimental agenda and attempt to bolster his personal legacy with empty promises."

All great campaign fodder for the Democrats.

While a new Republican administration could not rescind Obama's commitment to the Paris accord overnight, it could sabotage the agreement in short order by withholding funding and remaining passive.

It is true that some progress in confronting climate change has occurred on our shores despite Republican intransigence. Solar and wind accounted for two-thirds of new electric power plants built in 2015. Moreover, 17 governors, including two Republicans (Iowa and Nevada) agreed to initiate programs to boost renewable sources of energy. Grassroots support for carbon emission reduction has been growing. Yet in the absence of astute leadership from the top on down, valuable time will be lost, with the possibility of irrevocable adverse consequences.

It boils down to this. As a potent campaign tactic, Democrats need only point out that the Republicans' climate change denial makes the election's outcome virtually a "do or die" proposition -or worse.