Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pragmatism on Climate Change Trumps Politics at Local Level Across U.S.

From left; Kristin Jacobs, a Broward County commissioner; Dr. Fred Bloetscher, of Florida Atlantic University; and William Talbert, of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, at a Senate subcommittee hearing in Miami in April on the effects of climate change on Florida's coastline. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
As she planned her run for the Florida House of Representatives this year, Kristin Jacobs told her team that she wanted her campaign to address the effects of climate change.  Her advisers were initially skeptical, noting that voters typically said they cared about the environment, but considered the issue less urgent than the economy and health care.

Ms. Jacobs, a commissioner for Broward County, pressed her case, arguing that few issues were more critical to residents of southeast Florida than street flooding at high tide — even on some sunny days — and ocean water seeping into their drinking water.  “It’s how you ask the question,” she said.  “Is clean water important to you?”

Voters have answered yes so far, handing Ms. Jacobs a victory in the Democratic primary in August with more than 76 percent of the vote.  Opinion polls suggest she will cruise to victory in November.

The results were “shocking,” said Steven J. Vancore, a pollster and political consultant advising Ms. Jacobs.

While politicians are increasingly willing to include environmental messages in their campaigns, many at the national level still steer clear of the politically charged topic of climate change.  But in communities across the country where the effects are lapping at the doorsteps of residents, pragmatism often trumps politics, and candidates as well as elected officials across the political spectrum are embracing the issue.
Across the United States, a growing number of state and local governments are pulling together plans to deal with the effects of climate change, as a new tracking tool from the Georgetown Climate Center at Georgetown University Law Center shows.

The Obama administration, hoping to build on momentum at the local level, has created a task force of state and local officials who are active on the issues.  Ms. Jacobs is a member, as is Mr. Brainard.  The group is preparing a report for the federal government this fall, with hundreds of recommendations for local action and a national role.

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