After being relegated to the background during much of the 2012 elections, green issues and green groups scored a handful of major victories Tuesday night.
“This election was supposed to be about wealthy Big Oil-backed special interests spending unprecedented resources to wipe pro-environment candidates off the map. But voters chose a different course—re-electing President Obama and sending environmental champions to Congress to confront the climate crisis and keep our nation moving forward towards a clean energy future,” said Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters President at the National Press Club, this afternoon as the country's biggest environmental groups gathered together to celebrate last night's election results.
Green groups certainly have a lot to be excited about, including the reelection of a President who made a point of mentioning climate change in his victory speech: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
In Congressional races across the country, many clean-energy champions came out on top as well.
From Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, to Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, to Chris Murphy in Connecticut, John Tester in Montana, to Angus King in Maine, and Tim Kaine in Virginia, Senate candidates getting green love were giving victory speeches last night.
The League of Conservation Voters saw 11 of the 12 candidates they dubbed "The Dirty Dozen" defeated, and four of the five Congressional candidates targeted by the group in their "Flat Earth Five" campaign for publicly denying climate change lost their races.
For its part, the Sierra Club helped to unseat House of Representatives incumbents Bobby Schilling of Illinois and Quico Canseco of Texas.
"We did it. Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars the fossil fuel industry dumped into this election, we proved that corporations are, in fact, not people. Sierra Club and our 1.4 million members and supporters congratulate President Obama on his hard-fought victory, and we look forward to working with him to build on the historic progress our nation has already achieved as a global clean energy leader," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, at the National Press Club gathering.
Despite all the celebrating in D.C. today, green groups did have some of their hopes dashed last night.
One of the biggest disappointments was in Michigan, where Prop 3, which would have amended the state constitution to require electric utility companies to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass and hydropower by 2025 was soundly defeated—64 percent opposed to 36 percent in favor.
In California, supporters of Prop 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, also had their efforts thwarted, thanks in large part to heavy spending by goliath agricultural corporations in the 11th hour.
In addition, GOP Reps. Dan Benishek (MI), Jim Renacci (OH), Chris Gibson (NY) and Mike Coffman (CO) will all keep their jobs in the House of Representatives despite coordinated efforts from enviro groups to unseat them.
Overall though, environmentalists are doing more than sighing with relief; there's a little chest-pounding going on and a lot of hope for the health of the planet.
More on the 2012 Elections:
Joanna Foster is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. Her background is in ecology and evolutionary biology, and having always lived near water—be it Lake Michigan, the Indian Ocean or the North Sea—she is passionate about the conservation and restoration of this most precious resource. She is a regular contributer at the Energy and Environment blog at The New York Times, and her work has also appeared in OnEarth Magazine and at the American Museum of Natural History. TakePart.com