One of the things I value most about Citizens’ Climate Lobby, where I volunteer, is their/our commitment to bipartisanship. In the midst of a bitterly divided government, where it seems harder for Congress to work together toward common goals than for me to get my three-year-old to listen, CCL has developed, in conjunction with many economists and scientists as well as politicians of both parties, a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend bill that is projected to lower emissions by 40% in the next 12 years and 90% by 2050. Using a strategy of meeting elected officials where they are, building common ground, and showing respect and gratitude, we’ve earned the support of 82 cosponsors (including my Congresswoman!) for our signature Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, as well as gained support for several other bipartisan climate bills. Last fall CCL promoted The Far Middle campaign, in which football players at rival universities BYU and Utah, and later Michigan and Ohio State, wore purple to symbolize a coming together of Republicans and Democrats, red and blue sports teams, to push for climate action. In a polarized political climate, putting aside differences to work together for our common good can be very powerful, and even radical.
So I am very much committed to working with whoever is in office, and I don’t think any elected official is beyond hope. That said, our most fundamental democratic right is voting, and I won’t pretend that all elected officials and candidates are equal in how willing they are to recognize the urgency of climate change and act on it. If you only have the time or energy to do one thing about climate change this fall, make voting that one thing.
We don’t have time to waste. At about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial temperatures, we are already seeing record-breakingly devastating hurricanes and wildfires that are getting worse by the year. To keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to decrease global emissions by 7.6% each year between now and 2030, a task that is becoming closer to impossible with each day, week, and month that goes by without strong society-level climate action.
Let’s look at a few of the decisions on the ballot for this November. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promote a plan to get us to net zero carbon emissions no later than 2050 (although I wish they would talk more about carbon pricing, specifically carbon fee and dividend, as a powerful, revenue-neutral way to dramatically lower emissions). Donald Trump, on the other hand, announced a few months after taking office that the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, an international agreement crucial to our collective future, which many argue isn’t even ambitious enough but is certainly essential as a first major step of global action. Trump also has rolled back, or is in the process of rolling back, 100 (and counting) environmental protections and regulations, including many around air pollution, emissions, drilling, and extraction. He is now pushing to move forward with oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which would be doubly devastating in destroying vital wildlife habitat while extracting more fossil fuels to increase climate change.
I’ll briefly compare platforms for candidates closer to home for those who live near me, but for those living elsewhere it is easy to research your candidates’ environmental platforms and records. My Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-06) is a cosponsor of the Climate Action Now bill as well as CCL’s bill, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Climate change or any environmental issue doesn’t make the list of the nine issues on her opponent Karen Handel’s website. GA Senate candidate Raphael Warnock hosted a climate summit last year, while incumbent Kelly Loeffler took the anti-environment position in five of six recent votes on environmental issues. Jon Ossoff, running for GA’s other Senate seat, backs an ambitious climate plan, while his opponent David Perdue has a 14% 2019 environmental score as rated by the League of Conservation Voters (higher is better and the average Senator rates at 53%).
Obviously there are many other vital issues to take into account when voting: racial justice, pandemic management, healthcare access, and many more. I could write a blog about each of those, but I’ll stick to my climate blog focus here. Each person has different values and priorities that go into voting, and it is a deeply personal decision. I do think climate action deserves consideration as an especially important priority, since if we don’t act on climate, any other issue we care about is sure to worsen, and we won’t have a stable and prosperous enough society to be able to focus on other issues.
You’re more likely to follow through on voting if you have a plan. First, confirm you’re registered to vote. With all the issues around the USPS and the stress it will be under with large volumes of mail-in ballots, it’s best to either vote early in person, or request your mail-in ballot now, and then return it to a county drop box ASAP. There may be a shortage of retiree volunteers at polling locations this November, so if you aren’t in an at risk group, consider volunteering as a poll worker. Consider making calls or sending texts to get out the vote; Environmental Voter Project is a great nonpartisan organization focused on getting voters who have been identified as caring about environmental issues to turn out and vote. Generations before us have fought, and sometimes died, for our right to vote; we just need to exercise it. Come hell or high water, or pandemic or postal service crisis, we can do this!