Earth '06 An Election Guide

(Because the planet really is in the balance)

Every election year has intangible factors, hard-topredict phenomena that may not show up in polls but affect election results. This year, environmental issues might have a larger-than-usual impact. Here’s why.


THE DOCUMENTARY EFFECT Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, grossed about $22 million by the end of the summer. Will it change anyone’s vote? Probably not. The people seeing the film are already inclined to believe in global warming, and polls show that those people tend to vote Democratic. But midterm elections are all about turnout, and, judging by word of mouth, AIT has fired up its audiences. That bodes well for pro-environment candidates.

The summer of 2006 brought heat waves across the country, making it one of the steamiest seasons since the federal government began keeping track in 1895. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 50 all-time-high records were set in the central and western U.S. alone. The Midwest was hotter than it had been since the dust-bowl years of the Great Depression. Will voters make the connection between a scorcher of a summer and global warming?

Gas is over $3 a gallon, and that’s not the only energy source consumers are paying more for; the cost of heating and cooling their homes has also soared. The summer heat wave meant high air conditioning bills they’ve ever seen, and American consumers can look forward to the highest bills for heating their homes this winter. Meanwhile, the president still has no energy policy other than opening up all of our coastal waters and ANWR for oil drilling. Shock and awe at the pumps may translate into outrage at the ballot box.

With memories of Katrina still fresh, what will the hurricane season of 2006 be like? According to NOAA scientists, this hurricane season—officially June 1 to November 30—will bring eight to ten hurricanes, while notes that “all the predictions are higher than corresponding predictions from 2005.” But it’s not just the number of hurricanes that could get voters thinking about global warming; it’s their strength. Another Katrina-like disaster and even global warming skeptics might reconsider—and that could translate into votes against Republicans, who’ve made their doubts about global warming clear.

Insurance companies are dramatically raising their rates for coastal homeowners. Why? They’re signing on to the theory that global warming is causing more powerful hurricanes. And with the exception of the West Coast and New England, those coastal states—Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, etc.—typically vote Republican. If they’re upset about energy prices, insurance costs, and deadly hurricanes, could they lash out against their GOP incumbents?

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Issue 25

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