A Charleston, South Carolina minister and opinion columnist was threatening this week to dress up for Hallowe’en as the recent IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, in a mock bid to shake up a state-level election campaign in which no candidate, Republican or Democrat, has made climate change a priority issue.
“The costume wouldn’t be much to look at,” writes Jeremy Rutledge, co-president of Charleston Area Justice Ministry. “If I do this and ring my neighbours’ doorbells, they’ll probably answer and give me candy. But I should warn them not to judge a book by its cover: the IPCC report is the scariest thing I’ve ever read.”
That sense of urgency, redoubled in a U.S. state that was turned temporarily into an archipelago when Hurricane Florence hit in mid-September, hasn’t registered on most groupings of U.S. voters, he notes: a recent national survey by Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication found that climate change ranked fourth among 28 issues with more liberal Democrats, 16th among more moderate Democrats, 23rd among moderate Republicans, and dead last with conservative Republicans.
And South Carolina’s candidates in next week’s midterm election aren’t doing much better.
“While waiting to don my costume and ring some doorbells, I spent a few moments visiting the websites of the South Carolina politicians who are running for election this year,” Rutledge writes. “It felt like a virtual trick or treat. I’d visit a website, click on the issues tab, and hope to find any mention of climate change. I’m sorry to say I mostly felt tricked.”
Among the gubernatorial candidates, “the Republican listed 20 issues and the Democrat listed seven; climate change was not among them. In the race for my U.S. House district, the Republican listed eight issues with no mention of climate change; the Democrat didn’t list climate change as one of his 10 issues, but thankfully wrote about it under a tab devoted to conservation.”
Rutledge said he searched in vain for any of the urgency he picked up from the IPCC report. “Forty countries’ worth of scientists warning us that we’re running out of time don’t seem to get the attention of our current politicians,” he reports. “This Hallowe’en, I have to admit, it’s got me spooked.”
While Yale’s polling showed climate attitudes breaking down along partisan lines, “nothing could be less partisan than the basic laws of physics and chemistry,” Rutledge adds, particularly in a state that stands to see some of the worst climate impacts. So “after reading the IPCC report, I think I may have become a single-issue voter: my issue is the future of life on Earth. I’ll ask every candidate for every office, from here on out, what they’re going to do about climate change and how quickly they’re going to do it. I’ll ask if they have read the IPCC report. I’ll ask if they have children or grandchildren. I’ll ask if they feel a sense of urgency. And I’ll ask what took them so long.” (h/t to Wanda Baxter for pointing us to this story)