Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has avoided talking about global warming in campaign speeches since getting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement, according to an analysis of speech transcripts.
While Clinton talks a lot about “clean energy” jobs, she rarely says “climate change” in speeches anymore since winning Sanders’ endorsement, according to the news site Climate Home.
“During the last six months of Clinton’s primary campaign against Sanders, the transcript log of her speeches shows she was talking about climate change at one out of every two speeches she gave,” Climate Home found.
The new site found that “since Sanders endorsed Clinton on July 12, the full focus of the Clinton campaign has swung to Trump,” and in “38 speeches since that date, Clinton mentioned climate change specifically eight times.” That’s only once per every five speeches.
The rhetorical shift shouldn’t be surprising. Outside of left-wing environmentalists, few Americans list global warming as a top issue this election cycle, much of which has focused on immigration and national security.
A Yale University poll from July found only 17 percent of voters considered it one of their top issues. Most American voters ranked global warming at the bottom of their list of concerns, while “developing clean energy” ranked higher among other voter groups.
That mirrors past polls, showing low voter engagement on global warming. A YouGov poll from February found just 9 percent of Americans ranked global warming as their biggest concern.
A CNN poll from January 2015 found that 57 percent of Americans did not expect global warming to threaten their way of life.
Now, Clinton has refocused her environmental agenda away from global warming and towards “clean energy” jobs. Clinton mentions “good-paying” jobs in “clean energy” in a Wednesday op-ed detailing her plan for “helping America’s poor.”
“The Clinton campaign needs to target its messages to independent, undecided voters at this point,” Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, told Climate Home.
“Speaking to her own constituency on the left would not be a productive use of her time and effort,” Stavins said.
Sanders made fighting global warming a major aspect of his primary challenge against Clinton. The self-described Democratic socialist wanted the Department of Justice to investigate fossil fuel companies accused of funding climate skeptics and opposed hydraulic fracturing.
Environmentalists flocked to Sanders, including Bill McKibben — the founder of 350.org who helped stir up opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. McKibben has compared fighting global warming to fighting the Nazis, and he worked to move the Democratic Party platform left on environmental issues.
Climate Home searched Clinton speech transcripts throughout 2016 for the phrase “climate change,” and found the majority of recent mentions only talk about it to attack Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s skepticism of global warming.
“Throughout the year there is a clear regional trend, with Clinton restricting herself to mentioning climate change only in the north east, California and on one trip to Florida,” Climate Home reported.
“A search for the word ‘environment’ reveals just how little weight Clinton’s campaign considers broader environmental issues to have with voters,” Climate Home found. “In the 78 speeches for which Clinton’s campaign have logged transcripts in 2016, she mentions the word in just four.”
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