3 Guides to Help You Pick Climate-Focused Candidates This Election 2020
Seventy percent of U.S. voters want the government to act on the climate crisis. But if you are one of those voters, what does that actually mean when you go to fill out your ballot? How can you decide which candidates will make America green again?
Luckily, several organizations have put together guides to help you decide who to vote for if climate action and environmental protection are your deciding issues.
EcoWatch does not endorse any of these guides or the candidates listed on them. Rather, we are sharing them with our readers as tools they can use to make up their own minds.
1. Vote Climate U.S. PAC's 2020 Climate Change Voter's Guide
How it Works: This guide gives each candidate running for U.S. House or Senate a score based on their overall climate record. For incumbents, the scores are based on voting records, leadership, positions and the candidate's stance on charging a fee for carbon pollution. For challengers, the scores are based on their policy positions, including their opinion on a carbon fee.
The site lets you search for your senators by state and your representatives by zip code. You can also click on the green plus button to the left of each candidate's name to get more detailed information about their positions and records.
Why It Exists: Vote Climate U.S. PAC put the guide together in order to provide a resource to voters who want to make climate change their biggest priority.
"A recent report from the IPCC makes it clear that if we are going to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, we will need historical changes in our politics," Vote Climate U.S. PAC President Karyn Strickler said in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. "Vote Climate U.S. PAC's unprecedented, national voter's guide could dramatically shift the American paradigm toward political climate-action."
How it Works: The Sierra Club's Election Center makes the voting process simple for anyone, no matter where you live. Just enter your address, and you will be taken to a screen that offers a link to any Sierra Club endorsed candidates on your ballot, as well as a place to check your voter registration status and request a mail-in ballot.
The list of endorsed candidates appears as a printable "Slate Card." In addition to national races, the card also includes candidates running for state office. Be sure to check back before election day, as more endorsements may be added.
Why it Exists: The Sierra Club endorsement process is also designed to prioritize candidates who favor climate action.
"Our endorsement process is rooted in the strongest part of the Sierra Club: our more than 3.8 million members and supporters," the group's political director Ariel Hayes told EcoWatch. "Endorsements originate with our grassroots, and go through multiple steps and votes to ensure the candidates we support will advance legislation and action to tackle the climate crisis and complete the transition to a clean energy economy."
How it Works: Outdoor brand Patagonia has been putting its love of nature into civic action over the past four years. It has closed stores on every major election day since 2016 to encourage voting and endorsed two candidates for Senate for the first time in 2018.
This year, it has created a web page that helps visitors make a vote plan and select environmentally-friendly Senate candidates to support. The brand has formally endorsed Senate candidates in four states: Arizona, Montana, Maine and North Carolina. But the page also includes a map of the U.S. with recommendations for each contested Senate race, based on candidates' stance on climate action and protecting public lands. For further guidance, the page hosts a link to candidates' League of Conservation Voters scorecard.
Why it Exists: Patagonia chose to endorse the four candidates that it did because they were running in states with a significant community of Patagonia customers, environmental issues were highlighted by the campaigns, there was a big difference between the two candidates and they were close races where Patagonia thought its input would make a difference. The company is also running digital ads in support of the candidates it endorsed.
In general, however, Patagonia began endorsing candidates because it thought its community would want to know, spokesperson Corley Kenna told EcoWatch.
"It's not about engaging in politics," Kenna said. "It is about our mission to save the planet, and a part of that is electing leaders who will protect the planet."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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