Climate Hawk Sen. Hogg Rebukes Pence in Boone

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State Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, at mic, speaks at the Picnic for the People at Boone's McHose Park Saturday. Photo: Gavin Aronsen/Iowa Informer

In Boone’s McHose Park, as hundreds of bikers joined Republican Sen. Joni Ernst en route to the city’s Central Iowa Expo from the Big Barn Harley-Davidson in Des Moines for her third annual Roast and Ride fundraiser, Democrats staged an event of their own featuring a host of state party leaders and 2018 gubernatorial hopefuls.

Among the first to speak at the event, which local Dems dubbed the Picnic for the People, was state Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg, the author of America’s Climate Century: What Climate Change Means for America in the 21st Century and What Americans Can Do about It. With Vice President Mike Pence, who like Ernst is a climate change denier, set to speak at her bash later in the afternoon, Hogg slammed the GOP as a party beholden to Big Oil. “They’ve got the money,” he said. “They take their spare change from their record oil profits and other big industry special interests and they try to buy elections.”

Hogg then struck an optimistic tone, predicting Democrats would reclaim control of state and federal government by 2018 and, by 2020, the presidency as well. He introduced his “Summer of Citizenship” initiative, an effort to encourage Iowans to organize and campaign for Democrats across the state and begin to reverse the “trail of carnage” he said the Iowa GOP left at the Statehouse earlier this year.

After his speech, the Informer asked Hogg what he thought about recent comments Pence made on Fox and Friends Friday, the day after President Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from the Paris Accord, an international agreement to fight climate change signed by nearly 200 nations. “For some reason,” Pence said on the TV program, “this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left — in this country and around the world.”

“Here’s the problem,” Hogg responded. “He just has a different reality than what’s actually happening in the world. And there’s two ways that he’s just missing that.” The first, Hogg said, was the negative impacts climate change has already been having on people, citing increased flooding in Iowa, droughts, storm surges, and climate-related health problems as examples. The second, he added, was that “we actually have solutions that work that can make our country healthier, more sustainable, and more prosperous — clean energy jobs that are good for job creation, save consumers money, help businesses grow.”

When Pence took the stage later at the Expo, he localized a line from Trump’s speech announcing the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. “How great is it to have a president who is more concerned with Des Moines than Denmark?” Pence asked the crowd, echoing Trump’s “Pittsburgh, not Paris” quip Thursday. Pittsburgh’s mayor, Democrat Bill Peduto, was quick to respond, saying his city was committed to fighting climate change; and likewise, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie recently joined Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol in signing a Climate Mayors statement endorsing the goals of the Paris Accord.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.