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."
The excess carbon dioxide emitted by human activity since the start of the industrial revolution has already raised the Earth's temperature by more than one degree Celsius, increased the risk of extreme hurricanes and wildfires and killed off more than half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. But geologic history shows that the impacts of greenhouse gases could be much worse.
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By Teri Schultz
Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.
Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.
<div id="bfda0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c60b1a0dedbedbe5e0ce44284aff852f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1308390775328251906" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Covid-19 dogs started their work today at the Helsinki Airport at arrival hall 2B. Dogs have been trained to detect… https://t.co/nw4mrw6eJM</div> — Helsinki Airport (@Helsinki Airport)<a href="https://twitter.com/HelsinkiAirport/statuses/1308390775328251906">1600779644.0</a></blockquote></div><p>If it were left to Kossi and his pals, crowds of potential virus carriers could be cleared in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost with none of the physical discomfort that accompanies the current nasal swab test based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.</p>
No Human Nose Needed<p>A dog can sniff a cloth wiped on a wrist or neck and immediately identify if it comes from someone who has contracted the virus as much as five days before any symptoms appear which would lead a person to go into isolation. "A dog could easily save so so, so many lives," University of Helsinki veterinary researcher Anna Hielm-Bjorkman told DW, who says their testing has shown an accuracy level of nearly 100%.</p><p>It was originally her idea to see whether Kossi, a talented disease-detection dog, could redirect his skills in sniffing out mold, bedbugs and cancer to detecting the new virus just as it started to spread in Europe. "It took him seven minutes to figure out 'okay, this is what you want me to look out for," Hielm-Bjorkman said. "So that totally blew our minds."</p><p>Susanna Paavilainen, the executive director of the Wise Nose scent-detection foundation and the woman who saved Kossi from euthanasia in a Spanish shelter eight years ago, immediately started retraining her dogs to find the coronavirus.</p><p>Miina, who used to track a young girl's blood sugar levels by scent, quickly came on board, along with two others already working in disease detection. In all, they hope to train 15 dogs in the first phase.</p><p>Hielm-Bjorkman said once they discovered the new capabilities, while the normal academic procedure would be to test, publish and get peer-reviewed, their first instinct was to get the dogs into service. "[Researchers] who are actually publishing," she noted wryly, "are not at the airports."</p>
Wags, Not Wages<p>But for that, they needed permission and ideally, some funding. Vantaa Deputy Mayor Timo Aronkyto, who is also responsible for airport security, saw the benefit straight away. "It took me two minutes," he told DW.</p><p>However, his funding options were limited to about $390,000 total for the four-month pilot project aiming to prove that results from the dog tests are at least as accurate as the PCR test. Anyone who tests positive at the voluntary canine site is requested to go to the medical unit for confirmation.</p><p>The interest of Aronkyto, a trained physician, is rooted in both health and wealth. "Our testing at the airport costs more than 1 million [euros] (USD $1.2 million) a month at the moment," he said, explaining he expects that to go up to €3 million (USD. $3.5 million) per month in winter. "These dogs would be much cheaper," he pointed out.</p><p>He's optimistic support will grow as data from the current pilot project accumulates, explaining there is already work underway to change Finnish legislation so eventually sniffer dogs would have the same "authority" as customs dogs.</p><p>Aronkyto anticipates one animal performing both functions in the near future. He plans to continue this level of funding from his city budget into next year but that doesn't train new dogs nor expand the capacity beyond the four that split shifts currently at the airport, even as infection rates rise.</p>
Helsinki Hesitates<p>Notably, however, the Finnish government has not signaled it would like to pick up the program itself, despite a huge surge in publicity and, as Hielm-Bjorkman and Paavilainen emphasize, interest from other countries. Travelers have been eager to participate, waiting in line more than an hour at times.</p><p>Finnish ambassador in Ramallah, Palestine, Paivi Peltokoski, praised the experience after a recent trip but, apparently, her enthusiasm is not overly contagious.</p>
<div id="d9823" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61d382f115fe66a44eb793d9ebee3d94"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318564228450615299" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">I was tested negative by two #coronadogs upon arrival at the #Helsinki airport in #Finland. Later a medical test ve… https://t.co/cGlWQn8DJb</div> — Päivi Peltokoski (@Päivi Peltokoski)<a href="https://twitter.com/PaiviPeltokoski/statuses/1318564228450615299">1603205184.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"If the government would see this already as something that they would believe in," Hielm-Bjorkman said, she could envision training hundreds of dogs, stationing sniffers at concert halls or sports matches or elderly care homes. She adds there's a need for a "paradigm shift" for both medical professionals and the public.</p><p>Usually it's doctors telling patients if they're sick, she explained, and "here it's a dog handler."</p>
Little Political Will on German Project<p>This situation is not limited to Finland. In Germany researchers also <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-sniffer-dogs-show-promise-at-detecting-coronavirus/a-54300863" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced promising results</a> with canines <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-german-military-training-sniffer-dogs/a-54062180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">detecting COVID-19</a>, but no dogs have been used anywhere so far. And then, says Professor Holger Volk of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover, there has been insufficient political will or funding to move the project forward, something he called "very troubling" especially with a resurgent infection rate.</p><p>"When we started this whole project, we we did it because we wanted to help to stop the pandemic," Volk told DW. "It's really has been a very frustrating ride. I have had a lot of naysayers in the whole process. If I wasn't a very determined person, having done a lot of research, I would have probably stopped it."</p><p>He agrees with Hielm-Bjorkman's assessment that "it's just not in the perception of doctors that dogs are able to do this precise work." But he also echoes her faith in the vast potential of their discovery. "If you had a dog who could sniff every day quickly your cohort of workers, for example," he said, "think about the impact. You could continue having a workplace."</p><p>Speaking of workplaces, Susanna Paavilainen is starting to think if Finland doesn't want to unleash the dogs' potential at home, she and Kossi might accept one of the many requests from all over the world to provide training. "We can move because Kossi likes warm weather," she says, petting her star sniffer.</p>
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