The Climate Primary: Their Vision, Your Decision

The stakes are too high for you to stay home.

This time, vote like your whole world depended on it.

No issue trumps the climate crisis in terms of importance. With 2015 eclipsing 2014 as the hottest year on record, and with last month smashing even more heat records, it is clear that the next President of the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world in the fight against carbon pollution--and he (or she) dare not abandon it.

Sadly, one side of the political aisle has embraced the most demagogic dimensions of denial, trying to convince gullible voters (and greedy donors) that climate change is either a hoax invented by the Chinese, a phenomenon that stopped in 1998 or a problem not promulgated by polluters. This sort of carbon chicanery is both morally offensive and willfully ignorant of history; by rejecting the scientific verdict on climate change, these representatives of the fossil-fueled fringe have, in essence, branded previous Republican presidential nominees liars.

Voters who are concerned about the climate crisis have only two options--and plenty of opportunities to make their voices heard. One such option is to vote for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the Climate Primary held by Climate Hawks Vote Political Action (voting ends March 8). Your choice will determine which candidate receives the official endorsement of this courageous organization representing thousands of committed climate activists--an organization whose leadership played an essential role in the important investigations of ExxonMobil's decades of deception on climate change.

Climate hawks should also make sure they turn out to vote in the remaining Democratic presidential primaries--and ignore the voices of conventional wisdom that says that the Democratic primary is already over. Climate-minded voters are the real superdelegates: their voices and vision will ultimately determine which candidate carries the barrier of climate justice in the general election. As Frederick Douglass famously observed, power concedes nothing without a demand--and the same demand for climate justice that led the President Obama to finally say no to the Keystone XL pipeline can also compel both Sanders and Clinton to push for the boldest vision to curb emissions.

Now, I'm not the sort of person to tell anyone who to vote for, but I will tell you why I cast my particular vote. The next president must be someone willing to forcefully denounce the machinations of the fossil-fuel industry, and use the White House as a bully pulpit to raise awareness about the menace that industry poses to our future. The next president must be someone willing to select an Attorney General who will pursue polluters with the same passion that the late Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy pursued the Mafia. The next president must be someone willing to nominate unapologetically progressive federal judges who will reverse the rightward pro-polluter shift of our judiciary. The next president must be someone who will tear down the wall separating us from a clean-energy future.

Of the two candidates who recognize the importance of the climate crisis, there is only one whose track record matches the requirements of this particular job--and that's the candidate who declares that we must "boldly go forward and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy." (Hint: this candidate has been endorsed by climate champions Bill McKibben and Jane Kleeb, among others).

That candidate has noted that no one individual, not even the President, can bring about the changes needed to bring a long-overdue end to the fossil-fuel era. That's why climate hawks have to support climate champions running for the House and Senate--and why they must stay engaged not only in this election, but in the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential election as well.

Eight years ago, then-Democratic nominee Barack Obama declared, "[I]f we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment...when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal..." Sadly, eight years later, the rise of the oceans has yet to slow. The planet has yet to heal. And if a Republican climate-change denier seizes control of the White House in 2016, that moment Obama spoke of will never come.

You have it within your power to ensure that the next president will conquer the carbon cartel. You have it within your power to make sure that America does not abandon its international obligation to protect the health and safety of future generations. The stakes are indeed too high for you to stay home--so this year, vote like your whole world depended on it.