An article published on on Wednesday accuses environmental groups of pulling a "bait and switch" by rebranding climate change and talking about "other topics, like gas prices and kids choking on pollutants" in a move to help get climate-friendly candidates elected.


Politico made its case by pointing to a large television advertising buy from the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council that featured children with asthma inhalers struggling to breathe. And, in fact, that is a strategy on their part: "We're going to talk a lot about the health implications of dirty air," Heather Taylor, director of the NRDC Action Fund, told Politico.


The article got conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh all hot and bothered on his program on Wednesday, where he ranted "Politico, wittingly or unwittingly, has let it be known here that global warming is nothing more than purely political, and the Democrats think they're losing it not because of the science (which is a lie). They're losing it because somehow the politics just isn't working its magic on you anymore."


But Joe Romm, editor of the website Climate Progress, took issue with Politico's assertions, writing that some rebranding actually occurred, unsuccessfully, three years ago. "There has been a backlash against that rebranding because many in the progressive and environmental communities realized that the rebranding effort failed, realized that focusing just on topics like gas prices doesn't work."


Romm spoke with climate activist Bill McKibben, whose efforts helped to halt approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. "Talking about climate was precisely what rallied most of the people who came out to oppose the Keystone pipeline," McKibben said. "People sense in their bones ... that the climate is starting to shift — this issue is moving quickly from the theoretical to the deeply real."


Politico also pointed to a new poll from the American Lung Association that shows respondents feel it is "more important to ensure that we have strong safeguards that protect our air quality and public health" than to "streamline unnecessary environmental regulations." But the actual poll, released just a few hours after the Politico story, showed strong support for regulating greenhouse gases like carbon. Among its findings, "72% of voters support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants" and "60% of voters support stricter standards for gasoline and limits on the amount of tailpipe emissions from cars and SUVs."

Politico also claimed that support for climate change mitigation is "dramatically lower" today than it was in 2007, but Climate Progress's Romm disputes that as well, writing that "over a dozen polls in the past three years show that public support for climate action never wavered."


Meanwhile, it is true that more studies are showing the dangers of air pollution. As Fox News reported on March 22, a new study links prenatal exposure to air pollution to an increase in anxiety, depression and other behavioral problems in children. Another study released this week linked natural gas fracking to air pollution and acute health problems for people living near the wells.

'Rebranding' global warming is political hot potato
But is it really true that environmental groups are focusing on asthma and other health issues rather than talking about climate change?