If Republican Roy Moore had won last night’s special election, Alabamans not only would have sent a homophobic alleged child molester to the U.S. Senate, but also a climate science denier. Thanks in large part to the state’s black voters, they’re instead getting Doug Jones, a Democrat and self-proclaimed outdoorsman who campaigned partially on transitioning away from coal, investing in renewables, and addressing environmental issues that affect the state’s minority populations most.
Moore actively refused to answer questions about global warming during the campaign, and in 2009 falsely stated that there is “little hard evidence that carbon emissions cause changes to the global climate.” Jones provided an alternative: “We are contributing to climate change that is resulting in greater variances in weather, rising sea levels,” he told Birmingham Watch this month. Jones also told the Montgomery Adviser that he disagreed with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, and “would support reasonable restrictions on [carbon] emissions”—which is a little wishy-washy for a Democrat, but markedly better than Moore’s position: “Coal mining and oil drilling should be encouraged.”
Jones’s support for pro-climate policies is particularly good for Alabama, which is dealing with the impacts of extreme weather and projected to suffer further as climate change worsens. The state’s soils “have become drier, annual rainfall has increased in most of the state, more rain arrives in heavy downpours, and sea level is rising about one inch every eight years,” according to the EPA. As these effects intensify, crops will likely fail, and the state’s GDP could be reduced from five to 15 percent by the end of the century, according to a recent study published in the journal Science.
Alabama also has long faced environmental justice problems, with majority-black and low-income communities suffering disproportionately from landfill and coal plant pollution. “Doug Jones has the potential to help a great number of Alabama neighborhoods that have been systemically disenfranchised and dumped on by environmental racism, and MEJAC will be there to welcome him into his role as a representative of our most vulnerable communities’ interests,” said Ramsey Sprague, president of the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition, in an email. “The public health and economic vitality of our neighbors depends upon it.”