Anyone who recognizes and respects the climate change crisis that we’re in the midst of knows that the upcoming Presidential election of 2020 is going to be absolutely critical to determining whether or not we’re able to make enough progress in time to stave off the most detrimental impacts of climate change. A huge blow to climate progress was undeniably struck when President Trump removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the international agreement to fight climate change through emissions reductions and global cooperation measures. While former Vice President and one of the world’s most visible climate fighters Al Gore has noted that “most of the damage can be undone” regarding recent action (or inaction) from political leaders, that fact is predicated on the fact that the occupant of the White House in 2021 and beyond take proper action.
In this space, we won’t be diving into the politics of the various candidates running for President, as positions are ever evolving and it’s important for voters to make up their minds for themselves. However, what is important is to discuss how important of an issue climate action is. While a majority of Americans would likely say climate change action of some form or another is important in deciding for whom they cast ballots, when push comes to shove the results too often find climate being a less important factor in choosing leaders.
First, it’s important to examine how climate fared as an important voting issue in the most recent elections, the 2018 midterms. While Gallup polls found that over half of voters in 2018 found climate change to be either an extremely important or very important issue for their votes, which was an improvement over the only other time it was measured in 2014, it still came in the bottom 2 of the 12 issues measured. A Yale study of 28 total issues found climate change slightly more important in 2018, ranking 15th to come in the middle of the pack, but that only corresponded to 38% finding it very important. To sum up the 2018 sentiment, Pollster Lee Miringoff simply noted that:
“Climate change is not a real intense issue for a lot of people. The fear is, of course, is that if people who don’t believe in it are wrong…trouble.”
That said, the election cycles in America move immensely fast and it’s a whole new year and a new set of elections coming up that could look quite different than those in 2018. In particular, since that election and this primary season a huge movement pushing towards climate action—coming from the Sunrise Movement, a group of young and climate-focused leaders newly elected to office, and the Green New Deal—and the conversation looks like it just may have finally changed as a result.
How has this movement changed things? Well it’s still somewhat segmented and not all-encompassing, but the results are there. For example, among young voters (those 18 to 24 years old), those supporting the overall environmental movement increased from 42% in 2016 to 59% in 2018.
Further, among Democratic voters a recent poll found that 82% listed climate change as a ‘top priority’ for a President to address, outranking healthcare at 75% and representing the first time climate change was at the top priority for the party’s voters ever. Other factors have been found to come into play in determining if a specific group of voters will prioritize climate change highly, including state in which they live, whether they’ve already felt damaging effects of climate change in their community, and what other issues they do prioritize.
In addressing this newfound momentum of climate change concern, the current political climate still seems a bit slow to catch up. In the first set of debates among potential Democratic candidates, climate change talk was limited to 10 minutes. And amid calls that the Democratic Party should host an entire Presidential debate centered around climate change, the party continues to push back and it seems unlikely they’ll adjust to that pressure.
However, if there’s any reason for optimism to take away from this all, it’s that the tides are shifting and in a democracy the voice of the people is what matters. Voters are continuing to put climate change action atop their policy concerns, and whoever wants to be the next President of the United States likely needs to take heed of those voices if they have any hope of winning.
In the meantime, citizens who want to make a difference in climate change based on their own personal carbon footprint can look into purchasing more renewable energy, if they live in areas with deregulated energy markets. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington DC, you might consider contacting Atlantic Energy today to switch to a greener energy solution. You might even be able to use our Smart Home Bundle to save even more energy!