Straw poll: If “Forward” attendees had to concede to GOP for climate bill, they’d overwhelmingly vote to raise retirement age

If you’re anything like me – and most Americans are, according to an AP poll – you think that Congress, like its counterpart in Germany, should already be aggressively supporting the development of renewable energy. Even if the 97 percent of scientists who say that climate change is anthropogenic are wrong, the proliferation of clean energy technology would boost employment, clean our air, and reduce our reliance on foreign imports “for nothing”.

But if the dearth of discussion on climate change during the Presidential campaign, Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union, the fate of the Waxman-Markey bill in 2009, the Republican Party’s general attitude toward science, and the vast amounts of dirty energy money influencing politics are any indication, efforts to reverse anthropogenic climate change – like the legislation introduced by Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer this week – face one hell of an uphill battle. Despite common sense being on their side, the anti-climate change caucus might have to make some painful, regrettable concessions to get anything done. How can Republican climate change deniers be convinced that sound science is needed to save the planet when a good chunk of them believe that it’s no more than 6,000 years old?

Which is why, today, at “Forward on Climate,” I decided to pose a question to rally attendees: what tough compromise would they make, assuming, somewhat foolhardily, that Republicans aren’t hell-bent on obstructing every piece of legislation Democrats bring forward? Assuming that old-fashioned sausage making would be possible, what would the rally’s attendees give up to pass proper legislation on the issue, assuming that Republicans would be willing to trade a climate change bill in exchange for a Democratic concessions on either gun control, immigration reform, same sex marriage, the retirement age or the Pentagon budget?

Obviously, the poll was far from scientific – the five issues were picked somewhat randomly; I only managed to get 65 responses, and the question was completely hypothetical, with at least a dozen people refusing to answer, saying that Democrats shouldn’t have to compromise anything. But the response was intriguing nonetheless.

The vast majority – about two-thirds of those I spoke to, or 43 of the rally’s attendees – said that they’d be willing to raise the retirement age, with both young and old muttering about living longer and/or having to work until they die, anyway. The second most preferred concession was gun control (full disclosure: the answer I would have picked), with ten attendees (not including me) citing that as what they’d offer in exchange for GOP acquiescence on climate change legislation. Tied for third were Pentagon budget cuts and immigration reform, with five attendees each citing them as their preferred concessions. Finally, only two “Forward on Climate” protesters cited same-sex marriage as the policy they’d relent on to get Republicans to pass climate change legislation.

I, personally, am sympathetic to the line of thinking that concessions aren’t necessary; that the issue will be something of an Achilles heel for Republicans in ten years, as their homophobic policies are now. Regardless, climate change is a pressing issue – we’re running out of time to implement life-saving remedies. Although the thought of making concessions to an obstinate ignorance worshiping GOP might be sickening, the fate of the planet might depend on it.

Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.