With the Republican convention in Cleveland less than two weeks away, the GOP is still in a frenzy as at least half of the party wants someone other than Donald Trump as its nominee. The buyer’s remorse and angst over the man who trumped 16 other candidates has had a chilling effect on the convention. And organizers struggled to fill time slots with speakers for the upcoming four-day coronation. Not only are GOP leaders and party elders turning down any opportunity to speak, but many are skipping the event entirely, along with a growing list of corporations that declined to sponsor the convention.
Enter the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune. Brune and the 124-year-old environmental group already promised to be far more active during this presidential election than in previous campaigns, largely to take down Trump. On the Democratic side, the Sierra Club aligned with organized labor to ensure that party’s convention in Philadelphia includes an aggressive program to repair the nation’s infrastructure. In the meantime, however, Brune is using social media to rip top Republicans over the challenges facing Trump’s candidacy.
For example, Brune called out GOP’s chair Reince Priebus on Twitter over the party’s difficulties in lining up top speakers for the convention. At the same time, he confronted Priebus with polling data that shows a majority of Republicans want to see action taken on issues including climate change and clean energy deployment.
“It’s been all over the news; few VIPs want to be in the same city as your party’s nominee,” Brune wrote in an open letter. “[And] I’d be telling much of the crowd exactly what they want to hear.” Brune continued with data from organizations including the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which shows that many Republicans have more complicated views on global warming than the party leadership would have the American public to believe.
And while Trump is naturally the largest target of Brune’s barbs, the Sierra Club head has also taken on other Republicans. Last month, Brune called out former presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida for the senator’s hostility to legislation related to climate change, tweeting that the Sunshine State “doesn’t need a senator who buries his head in the sand” while sea levels rise.
Earlier this year, Brune also sent an open letter to half of Koch Industries. Writing to Charles G. Koch, Brune lauded Koch for his reported statement that he believed “the climate is changing” and that “humans have a part in that.” Citing statistics touting the dropping costs of renewables, Brune urged Koch to stop his financial support of groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which critics say have long propped up the conventional energy industry while sabotaging any policies designed to boost the expansion of clean energy.
Whether it is over the dismay of a Trump presidency or growing awareness of the risks of climate change, one thing is clear about this election: Environmental groups, which for decades have largely been on the fringes and sidelines during presidential campaigns, are taking center stage during this campaign. More of the American public, business leaders and even more conservative Republicans are realizing that climate change is not only about preserving American’s quality of life, but is also a compelling business opportunity, as shown by the tactics of those including Michael Brune.
Image credit: Flickr/Michael Fleshman
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.