By Jeremy Deaton
This year, state legislatures will redraw the electoral map. The GOP controls most state legislatures, and they are expected to draw congressional districts to favor Republicans, which will make it easier for them to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, even if they fail to win the most votes overall. This dynamic will influence policymaking on a number of issues, including the environment. Recent events in North Carolina give some idea of what to expect.
In North Carolina, coal-fired plants historically dealt with the leftover ash by mixing it with wastewater and dumping it into an open pit nearby. Because coal generators need a lot of water, power plants and coal ash ponds usually sit next to a lake or river.
This arrangement can have disastrous consequences. In 2014, a pipe under a coal ash pond owned by Duke Energy in Eden, North Carolina cracked open. The pipe carried wastewater from the nearby coal plant to the Dan River. When it broke, upwards of 30,000 tons of soggy, toxic coal ash seeped into the pipe and drained into the river.
In the aftermath, the Obama administration created the first-ever regulation on coal ash ponds, though it was remarkably weak. Michael Yaki, of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, later said it was "practically toothless in its ability to protect the poorest and minority population of our country from things such as coal ash." Despite this, in 2015, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would water down the regulation even further in ways that could lead to a repeat of the Dan River spill or allow coal ash ponds to leak toxins into drinking water.
Every single Republican member of North Carolina's congressional delegation voted in favor of the bill — including Rep. Mark Walker, whose district included the site of the Dan River spill — even as North Carolina residents living near coal ash ponds were being told not to drink well water. Every Democrat voted against it. The bill ultimately died in the Democratically-controlled Senate.
To understand why North Carolina Republicans would vote for a doomed bill to slash coal ash protections, it helps to consider their political circumstances.
In the anti-Obama fervor of 2015, it wasn't hard to marshal Republicans against the spectre of regulatory overreach, particularly against the energy industry. While Duke Energy donated to every member of North Carolina's congressional delegation, it gave substantially more to Republicans than to Democrats. But perhaps more important than campaign contributions or the political milieu was the impact of gerrymandering.
In 2010, Republicans came to power in North Carolina, and when they redrew the congressional map, they carved up Democratic strongholds to dilute the power of Democratic voters — namely, Black voters — creating districts that wiggled and stretched across large expanses. This practice, known as gerrymandering, produced a map that heavily favored Republicans.
In 2014, the GOP won only 55 percent of the vote statewide, but they came away with 10 out of 13 seats, and not one of these races was particularly close. Every politician Republican was well insulated against swings in public opinion. A 2014 poll from the Sierra Club found that 70 percent of North Carolina voters would be more likely to support a politician who " favors strong regulations and enforcement… to prevent future spills," and yet every Republican fought such rules.
Because of the way the electoral map was drawn, 12 of the 14 coal ash pond sites in North Carolina were in districts represented by Republicans, meaning that almost no one living near a coal ash pond was represented by someone who favored stronger regulations. And most coal ash pond sites are in areas that are disproportionately low-income, according to data from Earthjustice.
This is the North Carolina congressional map for the 2014 midterm election. The map is shaded according to the partisan lean of each district, with darker colors indicating more support for either Republicans, in red, or Democrats, in blue. The black dots indicate the locations of coal ash pond sites.
"Any environmental issue will receive less attention in a district where voting power has been diluted and divided," said Jason Rhode, national coordinator for the Princeton Gerrymandering Project at Princeton University. "Without that voice, environmental injustice can run rampant."
In 2016, a federal court determined that North Carolina's congressional map had diminished the power of Black voters and ordered the legislature to redraw the map. The Republican majority produced a map that, on its face, looked more fair. But it still carved up Democratic strongholds, which typically meant Black communities, with the effect of diluting the Black vote. In the most egregious case, they drew a line through the middle of North Carolina A&T State University, the largest historically Black university in the country. The final map produced just as many Republican seats, and it left only one coal ash site in a district represented by a Democrat.
This is the North Carolina congressional map for the 2016 election. The map is shaded according to the partisan lean of each district, with darker colors indicating more support for either Republicans, in red, or Democrats, in blue. The black dots indicate the locations of coal ash pond sites.
"The government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. We're getting further and further away from that," said Rev. Gregory Hairston, senior pastor at Rising Star Baptist Church and a coal ash advocate.
By diluting the Black vote, he said, the Republican-controlled legislature undermined the ability of Black voters to influence policy on issues like coal ash, which disproportionately harm Black residents.
"We found that many of the issues that we faced — strokes, cancer, asthma and different neurological diseases — had developed around these centers," Hairston said. "There is still pollution that is being put into our rivers, our basins, our water supplies."
Gerrymandering also produces more extremes, as lawmakers in safe districts are more likely to fear a primary challenge than a general election loss. This can stymie environmental legislation, said former North Carolina state Representative Chuck McGrady, a moderate, pro-environment Republican who led the legislative response to the Dan River spill.
"The problem is that, because of gerrymandering, there is just not a lot of discussion and not a lot of ability to find compromise on a range of issues, including environmental protection," he said. "Gerrymandering has allowed both parties to play to their base and makes it more unacceptable for anyone to compromise on whatever the issue is. It really doesn't matter."
In 2019, a North Carolina state court delivered another blow to North Carolina's gerrymandered congressional map. Judges said that map was far too partisan and ordered the Republican-controlled legislature to redraw it once again. They did, and the result was a map that would send eight Republicans and five Democrats to Congress. While it was more representative than the previous map, and some districts were made more competitive, the new map still heavily tilted toward the GOP. Only three coal ash sites were in districts represented by Democrats.
This is the North Carolina congressional map for the 2020 election. The map is shaded according to the partisan lean of each district, with darker colors indicating more support for either Republicans, in red, or Democrats, in blue. The black dots indicate the locations of coal ash pond sites.
Experts at Princeton said the more reliable way to produce a fair map is to assemble an independent citizen-redistricting commission, a bipartisan collection of citizens whose goal is to produce a fair map.
"If you have a very transparent process where the people making the decisions have the interests of the constituents at heart, that's going to make a good map," said Hannah Wheelen, project manager and data coordinator at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. "Process and public involvement are what make good maps."
In 2019, McGrady put forward a bill to overhaul North Carolina's redistricting process. The bill calls for an independent commission to draw the map and for the legislature to vote on it. McGrady also introduced a constitutional amendment to enshrine this process. Both measures failed.
"We got so very close. I had really firm commitments in terms of the North Carolina legislature taking this up last year, and then this little pandemic arrived, and it's just not an issue you can resolve through Zoom calls," he said.
Now, any hopes of ending gerrymandering are likely dead, at least for a few more years. Every 10 years, states redraw the congressional map. In the 2020 election, Republicans retained their grip on the state legislature, and in 2021 they are likely to draw the map to favor the GOP. North Carolina's democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has no veto power over the maps.
"I will continue to have an interest in making sure that our representation in the U.S. Congress more closely resembles the purple nature of our state, but I would not be surprised if my friends across the aisle take a different vantage point," said Ben Clark, a Democrat in the North Carolina Senate.
In the last round of redistricting, Clark put forward a map that would have sent seven Republicans and six Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning it would have been roughly representative. It failed, but it showed what a fairer map might look like.
Clark's map preserved communities, including those affected by coal ash ponds. On his map, the Dan River coal ash pond would fall in a Democratic-leaning district that included Greensboro, which lies just 30 miles south. And the Sandhills region, a flat, sandy area on the southern side of the state would also be collected in one district.
"It just makes sense to do a Sandhills district," he said. "They have similar historical concerns, environmental concerns."
This is a North Carolina congressional map proposed by state Sen. Ben Clark. The map is shaded according to the partisan lean of each district, with darker colors indicating more support for either Republicans, in red, or Democrats, in blue. It shows the average partisan lean according to the 2018 election for the North Carolina state Senate, state House and U.S. House of Representatives. The black dots indicate the locations of coal ash pond sites.
Among those environmental concerns is the Weatherspoon coal ash pond in Lumberton. Until the pond is finally closed, it poses a threat to people who live nearby, as heavy rains could flood the pond and carry coal ash into the nearby Lumber River. Lumberton is comprised mostly of people of color. Around a third of residents live below the poverty line.
"They're working for a living, but they don't have a whole lot," said Jefferson Currie II, Lumber Riverkeeper with the Winyah Rivers Alliance. "A lot of corporations over the years, they chose the path of least resistance. That meant [polluting] people who can't necessarily litigate and fight back."
Currently, this area is in the ninth district, which is represented by a Republican, Dan Bishop, the lead sponsor of bill requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex at birth. In Clark's map, the ninth district would lean Democratic, reflecting the partisan makeup of the Sandhills region. The sixth district, which includes the site of the Dan River spill, would also be represented by a Democrat. In total, six of the state's 14 coal ash pond sites would be represented by Democrats. Clark's map would also be more competitive than the current map, meaning elected officials couldn't just play to their base.
"The best of all worlds is to have a sufficient number of districts that are truly competitive, in which the candidates have to compete on their ideas and values," Clark said. "I don't want a map that automatically elects all Democrats or automatically elects all Republicans."
While North Carolina's GOP-controlled legislature is unlikely to produce a competitive map on its own, there is some slim hope for reforming gerrymandering this year. Congress is currently considering a bill, H.R. 1, that would require states to use independent citizen-redistricting commissions to draw maps. The bill would also ban map drawers from engaging in partisan gerrymandering or breaking up relevant communities – in particular, communities of color, like North Carolina A&T State University.
Clark, however, is pessimistic about the chances of ending gerrymandering in 2021. Currie held a similarly dim view, but he said that people should rally nonetheless.
"We don't push strong enough or hard enough. We need to say, 'We want a nonpartisan commission or we're gonna vote y'all out of office,'" he said. Though, he added, "I'm not expecting them to draw the most geographically and politically representational map. And if they did, I might pass out."
Reposted with permission from Nexus Media.
By Brian Barth
If there is one thing Tuesday's elections reinforced, it is that city folks and country folks are firmly rooted on opposite sides of America's partisan divide. Farmers are traditionally a conservative bunch and they have flocked to President Trump, even when it is questionable that it's in their best interests to do so.
The president's trade wars have caused the export value of certain crops, most notably soybeans (America's biggest ag export) to plummet. And his stance on immigration stands to have a profound impact on the cheap foreign labor that farmers rely on, which is already in short supply. These are but a couple of the issues that figured heavily in closely contested rural races.
Incumbents are listed first below, while the winner (where known at press time) is underlined.
1. Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Kevin Cramer (R) – North Dakota Senate
Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent in this extremely rural state which exports huge quantities of soybeans to China, hoped that the farmers hurting from the President's trade war would help propel her to victory. If any farmers did jump ship, their numbers were not enough to overcome her opponent, a Trump protégé who has expressed support for the trade war.
2. Jon Tester (D) vs Matt Rosendale (R) – Montana Senate
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Democratic incumbent leads his opponent by a mere 1,000 votes. Tester is one of two organic farmers in Congress, so a loss here would be a major blow to the movement. If he wins, it will at least be in part due to his ability to connect with the state's many farmers and ranchers.
3. John Faso (R) vs. Antonio Delgado (D) – New York 19th House District
John Faso, a member of the House Ag Committee, which is heavily sympathetic to the interests of industrial agriculture, was always an odd fit with this Hudson Valley district, an area known as a mecca for organic farmers—one agricultural demographic that tilts heavily to the left.
4. Steve King (R) vs. J.D. Scholten (D) – Iowa 4th House District
Scholten's longshot campaign to defeat the notoriously racist incumbent leaned heavily on his family's deep farming roots in the area. He traveled the countryside in a used Winnebago converted into a campaign bus, often stopping at farms and grain elevators to ask for farmers' support. This transformed the race from a sure win for King—the district is extremely conservative—into a nail-biter. In the end, however, King squeaked out a victory.
5. Jeff Denham (R) vs. Josh Harder (D) – California 10th House District
This race remains too close to call—as of press time, the Republican incumbent leads his opponent by less than 1,500 votes. This Central Valley district is known as a haven of corporate agriculture, which typically tilts right. But it is also home to a large Hispanic population, which supplies the labor force for the farms. Whether the left-leaning immigrant community will tip the scales for the Democrat remains to be seen.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Rhea Suh
The American people stood up to President Trump on Tuesday, rejecting his reckless assault on the environment and public health. We've empowered the U.S. House of Representatives to stand up, put a check on his attacks on our children's future, and hold him to account for putting polluter profits first and putting the rest of us at risk. Now it's on leaders from both parties to step up and carry out the people's will.
Tuesday's elections were a rebuke, first and foremost, of a divisive and mendacious presidency and the ways it has shaken public confidence in the institutions that sustain our democracy. But also, across the country, voters elected candidates who ran on commonsense measures that reflect core American values about protecting our air, water, wildlife, and lands, and leaving our children a livable world.
In coastal communities nationwide, voters rallied to defend healthy oceans and all the marine life they support from the hazard and harm of offshore drilling. Voters elected a bevy of House candidates—including Florida Republicans Francis Rooney and John Rutherford and California Democrats Mike Levin and Jared Huffman—who took a stand against offshore drilling and made protecting ocean waters, marine life and coastal communities a central focus of their campaigns. Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat since 1981 to win the House seat from South Carolina's 1st District, where he campaigned against oil and gas drilling off the state's coast. And Florida voters passed a measure to ban offshore drilling in state waters.
Across the nation's heartland, voters elected new governors who vowed to clean up their states and advance the vital fight against climate change. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer will get the chance to make good on her promise to deal in a comprehensive way with the drinking water problems still plaguing the citizens of Flint and to improve the quality of the state's water supply. In neighboring Illinois, J.B. Pritzker has pledged to shift into high gear the state's transition toward clean, homegrown, renewable energy. And in Wisconsin, Tony Evers ran hard against an irresponsible plan to exempt the manufacturing giant Foxconn from critical state environmental regulations, a move that would have given the company's new factory outside Kenosha carte blanche to pollute the Badger State's waters and lands.
In Nevada, voters sent Steve Sisolak to the governor's mansion. Sisolak has been a strong proponent of a measure Nevada voters approved to require power companies to produce at least 50 percent of the state's electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable sources by 2030.
Voters elected staunchly pro-environment governors across the West as well: Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico; Kate Brown in Oregon; Gavin Newsom in California; and, in Colorado, Jared Polis, the first openly gay American to be elected a state governor.
One thing that didn't change on Tuesday: The fossil fuel industry is still spending big to protect its profits at the expense of our environment and health. Led by out-of-state oil companies like BP and Koch Industries, the industry spent $30 million to defeat a ballot question on whether Washington State should levy the first fees in the nation against carbon dioxide emissions. Arizona's largest power company, Arizona Public Service Co., spent nearly $22 million to beat back a ballot measure calling for that state to get at least half of its electricity from solar and other renewable sources by 2030. And big oil laid out a staggering $41 million to turn back a measure in Colorado to protect homes and schools from the hazard and harm of fracking. An initiative on the ballot there would have banned oil and gas drilling within 2,500 feet of either. With the measure's defeat, the industry remains free to drill as close as 500 feet from a home and 1,000 feet from a school.
In the U.S. Senate, where anti-environmentalists added to their majority, our fight to stand up to fossil fuel millions got harder. We won't sugarcoat that. But we'll fight harder too.
That means calling on key House committees to get to the bottom of Trump's relentless attacks on clean air and water and healthy wildlife and lands. We'll press to restore accountability and funding to agencies like the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so they have the tools they need to do the job of protecting our environment and health. And, where we can, we'll create new alliances to help advance a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous future for our children.
The new landscape creates the opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. In a divided Congress, that's the only way for either party to make progress on issues of importance to the country. And voters from both parties support commonsense policies that protect clean air and water, safeguard our oceans and coastal communities, and fight the growing dangers of climate change. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans—59 percent—say the federal government should do more to reduce global warming, according to an Oct. 25–28 poll taken across 69 competitive congressional districts by the Washington Post and George Mason University.
High participation by women appears to have played an outsize role in Tuesday's elections, and the success of female candidates will change the face of Congress. To cite one example among dozens: Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative who understands the link between climate action and national security, called for initiatives to boost investment in clean, renewable power and improve air and water quality. On Tuesday, she became the first Democrat in 47 years to be sent to Congress from Virginia's 7th District.
Polls tell us that women, as a group, are more concerned about climate change than men. Similarly, 70 percent of voting-age Americans 34 or younger understand the growing dangers of climate change, compared with 56 percent of voters 56 and older. Exit polling suggests that a new generation of Americans 29 and under cast 13 percent of the votes on Tuesday, up from 11 percent in the 2014 midterm elections.
Ultimately, that's what this is all about. These voters are our future, and they're standing up to demand real change. They're standing up to Trump's reckless assault on our environment and health. They're standing up for public waters and lands. They're standing up to cut fossil fuel pollution today so our children don't inherit climate catastrophe tomorrow.
On Tuesday, the country stood up with them. We empowered the House for change. That's the House mandate, and that's the way forward, for our families, our communities and our nation.
Today is election day in the U.S., which means that if you are a U.S. voter whose state doesn't have early voting, today is the day to head to the polls and make your voice heard.
A lot of the races in this year's midterm election have big consequences for the environment. The Sierra Club has even assembled a list of 10 "Fossil Fools" to boot from office because they consistently prioritize fossil fuel interests over the environment and public health.
But environmental voting isn't just about picking certain candidates over others. A number of states are also considering important ballot measures that give voters a direct say on environmental issues, from protecting endangered species to promoting renewable energy. Here are five to keep track of as you watch the results come in tonight.
1. Initiative 1631, Washington State
If Washington voters approve I-1631 today, they would make their state the first in the nation to impose a fee on carbon emissions, as EcoWatch has pointed out previously. The initiative would charge $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions beginning in 2020 and raise the fee by $2 every year until the state meets its 2035 emissions goals. The funds would be directed towards clean energy and transit, and cleaning up polluted communities.
The fossil fuel industry has outspent the "Yes" campaign two-to-one, but initiative has some very prominent supporters.
Climate change may be the toughest problem humanity has ever faced — but it's solvable. Washington has a unique opp… https://t.co/20OkwrU9dL— Bill Gates (@Bill Gates)1541255580.0
2. Proposition 112, Colorado
In an attempt to limit risks from fracking, Proposition 112 would ban oil and gas development within 2,500 feet of homes, buildings, water sources or other sensitive areas. If it succeeds, it could actually be a major blow to Colorado's growing shale industry, as CNN explained:
If approved, the ballot question would eliminate future drilling locations in a chunk of the surging Denver-Julesburg, or DJ, basin in Colorado, one of the nation's largest oil-producing states. Much of the Colorado land held by oil companies like Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Noble Energy (NBL) would suddenly be off limits to new drilling.
Not surprisingly, the oil and gas industry is also spending hard to stop this measure, to the tune of more than $30 million. But supporters remain defiant.
If Prop. 112 passes in #Colorado, it will show that PEOPLE CAN stand up to #oilandgas companies and win. That sta… https://t.co/8mQdz1RZ3u— WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program (@WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program)1541457270.0
3. Proposition 127, Arizona
Proposition 127 would require Arizona utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Currently, as Ars Technica pointed out, the state plans to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, so the proposition would majorly scale up the state's renewable energy commitment.
Both opponents and supporters of the measure have spent a lot to win the day, making it the most expensive ballot measure in Arizona history.
The Union of Concerned Scientists came out strongly in support of the measure, arguing that it would save utility customers money, improve public health by reducing air pollution, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other benefits.
The Good Place's Ted Danson also lent his support.
[email protected] knows it’s forking important to vote #YESon127 to clean up our energy and our politics! https://t.co/fWaKHqDE3M— Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (@Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona)1541293384.0
4. Amendment 9, Florida
This odd combination occurred because Florida's Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to suggest amendments to the state's constitution, has the right to bundle changes on the ballot. They argued that combining the two made sense because they were both environmental issues and because it would save space on the ballot, Vox explained.
But it might backfire. Several local newspapers expressed concerns about forcing voters to say yes or no to two different things at once in their endorsements. Others see it as a win-win.
"The issues together send a message of clean air, clean water," Constitution Revision Commission member Lisa Carlton, who wrote the pre-bundled vaping measure, told Grist. "I cannot think of anything more important than protecting our near shores in Florida."
5. Ballot Measure 1, Alaska
Ballot Measure 1 would impose new requirements and a new permitting process for any developments that would impact bodies of water that salmon and other fish call home. It's a response to the controversial Pebble Gold Mine, a project that was so threatening to the local watershed that even Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put its efforts to approve it on hold.
Oil and gas interests, as well as 12 of Alaska's Native Regional Corporations, say that existing protections for salmon are sufficient and the measure would hurt the economy, Ars Technica reported. Wildlife groups like the Alaska Conservation Foundation are supporting it.
We are voting Yes on 1 because we can't bear to think about an Alaska without wild salmon! Get the Facts on Ballot… https://t.co/206ezzlNLl— Alaska Conservation Foundation (@Alaska Conservation Foundation)1541464980.0
Tomorrow, America heads to the polls for the midterm elections, and, as EcoWatch has pointed out, these are very important elections for the environment, giving voters a chance to fight back against the Trump administration's agenda of ignoring climate change and opening public lands to drilling and mining.
This election is so important, in fact, that eco-friendly outdoor brand Patagonia has endorsed two candidates, becoming likely the first U.S. company to ever do so. Patagonia endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Jon Tester in Montana and Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen in Nevada because of their commitments to protecting public lands, but it is also working to encourage voting everywhere. The company is giving its employees the day off, and closing its retail stores.
"[V]oting is more important than shopping," Patagonia Director of Global Communications and Public Relations Corley Kenna told CBS. "Business has an important responsibility to help uphold democracy. The least we can do is make sure the employees of our company have that opportunity to exercise that right."
Patagonia isn't the only private company stepping up this election to help the American public make its voice heard. Here are five major ways that some of your favorite brands are helping to get out the vote tomorrow.
1. Voting Time
Patagonia is one of the many companies that have signed on to the Time to Vote campaign, which is an initiative that was launched by American CEOs in September to raise awareness about things employers can do to make it easier for their employees to vote. Those actions include offering paid time off, making Election Day meeting-free or spreading info about mail-in or early voting. Participants include The Gap, PayPal and Walmart.
Another group of more than 300 companies, including Spotify, Salon and Survey Monkey, has spearheaded a similar initiative called Take Off Election Day, promising to give their employees time off to vote.
300+ companies (comprising an estimated 50,000+ employees) are now taking off election day. What's your excuse? https://t.co/Xhx5K4c06b— Take Off ElectionDay (@Take Off ElectionDay)1476655725.0
2. The Ride to Vote
Rideshare company Lyft launched a campaign this summer called the "Ride to Vote." It explained its motivation in a blog post announcing its efforts:
It is estimated that over 15 million people were registered but didn't vote in 2016 because of transportation issues. That's why we're committed to providing 50% off rides across the country, and free rides to underserved communities that face significant obstacles to transportation.
Not to be outdone, in October Uber announced the steps it would take to help Americans vote, including adding a tool to the app to help voters find and book a ride to their polling place, offering free rides and providing Uber users with voter registration resources.
You drive the vote, we’ll get you to the polls. Learn more about how we’re helping people show up on Election Day. https://t.co/ftLaWCEhZ7— Uber (@Uber)1538673906.0
3. Election Dates
The dating app Bumble came up with a unique way to encourage people to vote. The app, which has 41 million users worldwide, allows users to display their intention to vote on their profile. If anyone is looking for a civic-minded partner, Bumble just made that easier. The app will also send notifications reminding users to follow-through on their commitment.
"We have a real opportunity around election season to really be an advocate for voter registration," Bumble Chief Operating Officer Sarah Jones Simmer told CBS.
We’ve added a new badge option to your Bumble profile, allowing you to show your pride in civic engagement. Regardl… https://t.co/0fbW7QITHW— Bumble (@Bumble)1538936848.0
4. Registration Applications
Bumble isn't the only app encouraging its users to vote. Fellow dating app Tinder teamed up with Rock the Vote to encourage voter turnout, Snapchat registered more than 400,000 users and music app Pandora shared an ad on National Registration Day in which the artist Common encouraged users to register and find their polling place.
"It's your chance to make sure your voice is heard," Common said in the ad, according to CBS. "Tap the link on your screen now to make sure these midterms are on your terms."
Swipe the Vote | Tinder www.youtube.com
5. Fighting Voter Suppression
Twitter and Facebook are in hot water following the 2016 election. There are concerns that the spread of false news on the popular social media platforms might have influenced the results, as Vox explained.
That is likely why they are eager to redeem themselves this time around as they attempt to delete false or misleading posts discouraging people from voting. As of Friday, Twitter had deleted more than 10,000 automatic accounts designed to keep people away from the polls. Both services are getting rid of posts that spread misinformation about how to mail in a ballot, alter pictures to make lines at polling places look longer than they are and say that it is possible to vote online, among other lies.
One rumor Twitter removed said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would patrol polling sites checking for citizenship, a clear attempt to discourage immigrants who can vote from showing up. ICE eventually clarified on Twitter that it did not patrol polling places.
ICE does not patrol or conduct enforcement operations at polling locations. Any flyers or advertisements claiming o… https://t.co/wAQuAp9pYN— ICE (@ICE)1540384248.0
By John Russell
Sometimes climate change can feel like someone else's problem—we read about stronger hurricanes hitting our coasts or wildfires raging across California and think 'well, it's a good thing that I live here and not there.' The truth is, climate change is everyone's problem, and it's already impacting Ohio. But we have a way to fight it.
I live in Central Ohio, where I've been farming my land for five years now. In that time, I've learned that the weather can be your best friend or your worst enemy. The problem right now is that weather is becoming more and more extreme. Once-a-century weather events are now happening every few years. Right now, one part of our state is in drought while other parts of our state flood. These events are becoming increasingly common.
All of that makes life a lot harder for me and other farmers like me. On my farm, we mainly grow produce. With too much rain, our crops suffer. Erratic weather patterns caused by a warming climate make extreme weather events more likely. And that's not good news when your income depends on the weather.
I'm not alone. I know a lot of farmers who've struggled to manage in the face of extreme weather. Costs go up and profits fall. Hiring employees becomes a luxury. Every bill gets that much harder to pay. Two-thirds of the people in this country can't afford a $400 emergency expense despite working harder than ever. The richest country in the world can do better.
That's why we need to act now—before it's too late. Rural areas might struggle at times, but they're a great place to call home and they deserve the chance to thrive. What is the future of small-town America if making a living working the land becomes impossible?
Big problems require big solutions. We need to act now and choose leaders who will support solutions that match the scale of the climate challenge—solutions like taxing polluters and refunding the money directly to citizens. Now is our chance to rise to the occasion, as Americans always have, and confront the generational challenge of climate change. And if our leaders will not rise to meet that challenge, then we must stand up to lead ourselves.
There are a lot of complex and technical solutions to climate change, but the most powerful solution is simple—it's voting. Our current leaders are pretending that this problem will go away. But it won't until we get involved in our political system and make our voices heard. That's why my friends and I are supporting leaders who will act on climate change—and you should too.
In the video below talks about the impact of unpredictable weather patterns on his crops.
John Russell: I'm A Climate Voter www.youtube.com
John Russell is a farmer from Galena, Ohio. To learn more about John and other young voters supporting climate leaders, click here.
- 1,200+ U.S. Officials and Candidates Have Rejected Fossil Fuel Cash ›
- This Is Why You Should Be a #ClimateVoter on Nov. 6 ›
If voters approve Initiative 1631 on Nov. 6, Washington state will take a significant step in climate action by becoming the first state in the nation to enact a fee on carbon emissions. That is, unless Big Oil can stop it.
The U.S. oil industry has pumped a record $30 million to stop the carbon tax, which environmentalists have tried to enact for years, Reuters reported, citing state data. Meanwhile, proponents—including green groups and climate activist billionaires Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs—have spent $15.2 million.
"With Big Oil spending $30 million, that makes it a real fight," Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters, told Reuters. "It has been a frightening amount of money."
Washington ranks fifth in the nation in crude oil refining capacity for making gasoline and other petroleum products, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Initiative 1631 imposes a starting fee of $15 per metric ton on carbon emissions, beginning in 2020. This fee rises $2 every year until the state hits its 2035 emissions reductions goals and is on track to meet its 2050 goals. If passed, the tax is expected to generate $2.3 billion in revenue for green infrastructure, clean transportation and help communities most impacted by pollution.
A recent statewide Crosscut/Elway Poll among registered voters shows 50 percent approval of the measure, 36 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided.
This.👇 Big Oil is spending big 💰 fighting Washington's historic I-1631—which would price carbon & use the funds for… https://t.co/Oe7nATH56k— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1540498727.0
The opposition is led by the Western States Petroleum Association, a trade organization that has raised $31.2 million from energy companies and business groups for the "No on 1631" campaign—the most money ever spent in Washington state history to defeat a ballot initiative.
BP America contributed the most with $11.5 million, followed by $7.2 million from Phillips 66 and Andeavor with $4.4 million, Reuters said. The three energy companies have refineries in the state. American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Valero Energy Corporation also donated funds.
The money has been spent on digital ads, flyers, mailers and television ads aired during this month's Major League Baseball World Series. Opponents say the tax will "be paid by Washington families and small businesses."
A Spanish-language flyer mailed by the No on 1631 campaign urges voters to “join our coalition and more than a hund… https://t.co/Q8olCZ9IOP— The Seattle Times (@The Seattle Times)1540991040.0
By Doug Norlen
This month the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a startling report, which finds that severe impacts of climate change are happening much sooner than previously expected, and that countries must take far more aggressive actions to avoid the most catastrophic impacts. The report finds that the burning of fossil fuels must be curbed sharply.
The harmful role Wall Street banks play in propping up fossil projects around the world is increasingly known. Yet there is much less awareness of the role major cities play when they place billions of dollars of their public funds into these same Wall Street banks. According to L.A. city records, as of July 2018, Los Angeles had banking and/or investment relationships with several Wall Street banks, many of which are notorious for their financing of fossil fuel and human rights debacles around the world, including JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
According to Banking on Climate Change, a fossil fuel finance report card, between 2015 and 2017 these Wall Street banks collectively provided over $50 billion in financing for tar sands, ultra-deep water drilling, coal mining, coal power and liquid natural gas projects around the world. These projects contribute vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and many of them have severe local environmental, social and human rights impacts as well.
But in 2018, cities have more ethical options. Rather than investing the public's money in environmental and human destruction, cities can establish public banks. When properly structured and operated, public banks can prohibit the use of their funds for fossil fuel and other harmful projects. Instead, they can fund renewable energy and other green enterprises, affordable housing, education and low-cost loans to job-creating entrepreneurs—all while avoiding paying hundreds of millions of dollars in exorbitant fees to Wall Street banks.
The movement to establish public banks is growing nationwide. California is at the forefront, with efforts to pass state-wide legislation allowing establishment of municipal banks as well as campaigns to establish public banks in San Francisco, Oakland and other East Bay cities, Los Angeles and other municipalities.
When Los Angeles voters go to the polls next week, they will decide whether to approve Charter Amendment B, which amends the city's charter to enable it to take affirmative steps to establish a public bank. And Los Angeles is a great case study on the need for public banks. According to Public Bank L.A., the city maintains bank accounts with between $4 billion and $12 billion in cash, and manages up to $45 billion in investments through large commercial banks.
The enormous sum of public funds that L.A. entrusts to fossil fuel banks undercuts the climate leadership of city officials. For example, this past August L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti joined a coalition of hundreds of mayors across the country to condemn Donald Trump's plans to weaken vehicle efficiency standards and rescind California's waiver right to set stronger greenhouse gas regulations. In December 2016, Garcetti joined other mayors to denounce Trump's decision to walk away from the Paris agreement. The city council has shown progressive streaks on banking issues as well. In December 2017, the Council unanimously voted to enforce both federal and state Community Reinvestment Act ratings disqualifying Wells Fargo from submitting a Request for Proposal for the city's commercial banking services. And yet, the city still banks with Wells Fargo.
Activist calling for Wells Fargo to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline. Joe Piette / Flickr / Creative Commons
If L.A. voters approve Charter Amendment B, the city will be one step closer to creating a municipal bank and redirecting its billions of dollars of public funds to environmentally sound, fiscally smart, sustainable community needs. In doing so, L.A. will serve as a beacon of progress to inspire the larger national movement to establish public banks.
For a sense of why Los Angeles so badly needs to approve Charter Amendment B, we've included descriptions of just a handful of the harmful projects Los Angeles is currently supporting by keeping its money in fossil fuel banks (based on publicly available information). Here is a sample of some of the projects that LA's banks support:
Dakota Access Pipeline (United States):
- Citi — $235 million in project finance
- MUFG — $235 million in project finance
- Wells Fargo — $120 million in project finance
The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, extends over 1,000 miles across several U.S. states, damaging Native American ancestral lands and water. Passing within just a half-mile of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the pipeline has destroyed sacred sites and threatens the tribe's drinking water with potential oil spills. Beginning in 2016, Native American water protectors, including Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders and members, led opposition to DAPL. Supported by thousands of allies, this grew into one of the largest and most iconic movements in the world to halt fossil fuel pipelines. In response to peaceful, prayerful resistance, police from several states and agencies, members of the U.S. National Guard and armed private security forces used military equipment and tactics, including attack dogs, to intimidate, assault, arrest and otherwise commit grievous human rights abuses against water protectors and their allies. Opposition to the pipeline expanded far beyond the project site and supercharged the growing global movement against financial institutions that support fossil fuel projects.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline (United States):
- Bank of America — $673.5 million in corporate loans (13)
- Citi — $673.5 million in corporate loans (14)
- JP Morgan Chase — $648 million in corporate loans (15)
- MUFG — $1.182 billion in corporate loans (16)
- Wells Fargo — $673.5 million in corporate loans (17)
The proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, running from West Virginia through North Carolina, is the third longest gas pipeline in production or in some phase of development over the past 20 years in the U.S. Trees have been cleared along the pipeline route and infrastructure development has begun. Although two lawsuits against the pipeline are now pending in federal and North Carolina courts, federal law allows pipelines to be constructed prior to the resolution of all litigation. The ACP was the only oil or gas pipeline to be on Donald Trump's list of 50 Priority National Security Projects prior to his election.
According to published reports, the central purpose of the ACP is to enter South Carolina and eventually reach Elba Island, Georgia where gas will be exported from a liquid natural gas facility now under construction. This recognition raises serious concerns regarding the use of eminent domain to take privately owned property for private gain instead of public use.
Pax Ahimsa Gethen / Flickr
The ACP threatens the livelihood of more than 30,000 indigenous peoples that live along the pipeline route. In May 2018, an alliance of community, statewide and national groups filed a complaint to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Civil Rights Compliance Office, alleging that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality discriminated on the basis of race and color in issuing permits and certifications to the ACP as part of the permitting process. In September 2018, environmental groups filed legal challenges in an appeals court against federal permitting agencies.
Kusile Power Station (South Africa):
- Bank of America — financial advisor
- JP Morgan Chase — financial advisor
- MUFG — part of 705 million euro corporate loan to South Africa's state power company, Eskom, to purchase boilers from Hitachi Power Europe for the Kusile coal power plant
Once completed, the 4,800-megawatt Kusile coal plant in South Africa will be one of the largest coal plants in the world. The estimated annual greenhouse gas equivalent emissions of the plant—30 million tons—would increase South African energy sector emissions by 12.8 percent and the country's total contribution to climate change by 9.7 percent. South Africa already has the distinction of being among the top global greenhouse gas emitters per capita. The Kusile project area already exceeds permitted ambient levels of hazardous air pollutants that create soot and smog, which cause harm to respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems, leading to heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. If completed, Kusile will increase the cost of electricity for the poor and household consumers to compensate for Apartheid-era "special pricing agreements" that give large industrial users, which consume most of South Africa's electricity, guaranteed rates that are among the lowest in the world. The cost of Kusile, which in 2007 was estimated by Eskom to be 80 billion rand, had more than doubled to 172 billion rand by 2016. It is "expected to further strain Eskom's financial resources, and place upward pressure on Eskom's electricity price trajectory in the years ahead." In 2015 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Hitachi with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with contracts to build Kusile and Medupi (another enormous coal plant in South Africa), resulting in a $19 million settlement.
Long Phu-1 Coal Plant (Vietnam):
- MUFG and JP Morgan Chase — among the lead financial arrangers, with potential combined $650 million in finance
Long Phu-1 in Vietnam would emit an estimated 6.3 million tonnes of CO2 per year. As a "supercritical" coal power plant, Long Phu-1 is prohibited from being financed by most official government export credit agencies (ECA), including the U.S. Export-Import Bank. However, the former director of the EPA's Air Enforcement Division, Bruce Buckheit, revealed that the project consulting firm Environmental Resources Management doctored the coal plant's greenhouse gas emissions estimates to make Long Phu-1 appear to be a more efficient "ultra-supercritical" plant, which would be allowed under ECA coal financing restrictions. Analysis of Long Phu-1 by Friends of the Earth U.S. reveals that the project violates other international policies, including requirements to analyze alternatives, identify cumulative and associated risks and impacts, evaluate labor and working conditions, prevent pollution, protect community health, provide safety and security, and ensure biodiversity conservation. In February 2018, the New York Times reported that U.S. Export-Import Bank financing for Long Phu-1 had collapsed after it was revealed that project financiers included Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank that is on the U.S. government's sanctions list and is part of a federal investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign. It was also reported that a top Long Phu-1 project official had been sentenced to prison for corruption. MUFG and JP Morgan Chase, like the U.S. Export-Import Bank, must also comply with U.S. sanctions. However, it remains unclear whether these banks continue to be potential financiers of Long Phu-1.
WATCH: 3 communities who stood up to Big Oil and won https://t.co/58BKMR6zGK #FossilFree https://t.co/dqOuksByOh— 350 dot org (@350 dot org)1526526910.0
Doug Norlen is the economic policy program director for Friends of the Earth.
With record-breaking hurricanes, furious wildfires and an ominous report from the United Nations that forecasts catastrophic climate change, it's more important than ever to vote for leaders who are defenders of the environment.
Thankfully, we have candidates running for all levels of government who will take a stand on these critical issues and are promising ambitious climate policies if elected.
In fact, more than 1,200 elected officials and candidates running in local, state and federal elections are standing up to Big Oil and Gas and have taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.
A number of high-profile candidates and incumbent lawmakers have joined the movement. This includes Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Rep. Beto O'Rourke—Ted Cruz's foe for Senate in Texas; New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is on track become the youngest ever woman elected to Congress; Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum; and Randy "Ironstache" Bryce, of House Speaker Paul Ryan's Wisconsin district, who is trying to flip the seat blue.
The list also includes candidates who lost their bids, i.e. Cynthia Nixon, who ran for governor of New York.
[email protected], Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, candidate for Congress in NY-14, just signed the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge!… https://t.co/L6bivRnF0f— No Fossil Fuel Money (@No Fossil Fuel Money)1502817323.0
"Taking the pledge means that a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies—companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal," the pledge website touts.
The No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge is a pointed effort against the Democratic National Committee, which decided in August to reverse a ban on fossil fuel donations.
You can use this search tool to see if your election candidates have taken the pledge.
Thank you, Charles Gallia, in race 4 OR State Senate, for joining 1200 other candidates in US pledging to take NO m… https://t.co/YHIPv7rCcO— Daphne Wysham (@Daphne Wysham)1540520582.0
The Sunrise Movement, a politically-minded organization of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis, has endorsed a full slate of candidates who have rejected fossil fuel cash and promise to fight climate change.
For instance, they've united behind Minnesota candidate Ilhan Omar, who is poised to become the first Somali-American elected to Congress.
"Ilhan has fiercely backed a moratorium on new oil and gas infrastructure, especially when it comes to the Line 3 pipeline. She's promised to stop tax loopholes and giveaways to fossil fuel executives, if elected to office and will support legislation to create good-paying, union jobs in the clean energy sector instead," the group writes.
There are other tools that environmental voters can use before heading to the polls. As Vox reported, Vote Climate US PAC has created a climate change voter's guide for House and Senate races that's based on what incumbents and challengers have said they'll do to address Earth's rising temperatures, from a carbon tax and their stated position on climate change.
You'll be unsurprised to find that the vast majority of the so-called "climate heroes" in the guide are Democrats.
"We all know that there are differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, but to me what was stunning was the extent of the divide between the parties," Karyn Strickler, president of Vote Climate US PAC, told Vox. "What this demonstrates is that climate politics are overwhelmingly driven by party."
There are many reasons to head to the polls on or before Nov. 6. Saving the environment should be one of them.
There's never been a better time to be a #ClimateVoter and fight for a brighter future. Are you in? https://t.co/GhtDYWCEBj— NRDC Action Fund (@NRDC Action Fund)1540405621.0
With the midterms rapidly approaching, it's important to make your vote count in the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.
After a year of destructive hurricanes, killer flooding and devastating wildfires, 2018 is already on pace to be among the hottest years in recorded history. Earlier this month, top scientists urged drastic emissions cuts in order to avoid climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, we have lawmakers in office who are not taking these threats very seriously, deny the science, and encourage the use of planet-warming fossil fuels.
For all these reasons and more, Nov. 6, 2018 will be one of the most important elections yet. That's why Generation Progress and The Years Project have launched the Be a Climate Voter campaign to motivate Americans—especially the country's youngest voters—to head to the polls.
The election is just around the corner and this year, the world's biggest polluters are counting on you.… https://t.co/QQyMV74l5Q— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1540319643.0
A recent ABC News poll found that most Americans believe the government should take action on global warming. Unsurprisingly, the generation growing up with the climate crisis and the ones who will have to deal with its worst effects after all the older voters are gone think the country should be doing more to fight global warming.
"Support for substantial government action ranges from 70 percent of those 18-39 to 54 percent of those 50-plus," the poll says. "Young people also are much more confident in such action, 71 vs. 48 percent; and more apt to see serious risks to the United States if it's not taken, 61 vs. 44 percent."
Kilan Bishop, a 26-year-old PhD student, has seen first-hand how flooding has adversely affected her community in Miami, Florida and will be voting with environmental justice in mind when she casts her ballot.
"Climate change used to feel like this big overwhelming threat, but this year I found something I can do about it—I'm a climate voter," she says in a Be a Climate Voter campaign video.
Thursday, Oct. 24, EcoWatch will host a Facebook Live at 12 p.m. EST featuring Bishop, who will share her experiences on the front-lines of climate change and highlight the importance of the youth vote. Join us on our Facebook home page.
If you care about clean air, water and preserving our precious natural resources we urge you to join the movement. Use the hashtag #ClimateVoter on Oct. 24 to share why you'll be voting with the planet in mind.
By Justin Mikulka
As the midterm elections approach, DeSmog is taking this opportunity to highlight some of the top climate science deniers currently running for office in the U.S.
Did we miss someone notable? Let us know.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La)
Recently featured on DeSmog for some of his other extreme views, Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana's Third Congressional District qualifies as a climate science denier on top of being a "warrior" for the natural gas industry.
Higgins told PBS News Hour in August 2017: "Climate change has always happened, that's my argument, well before, you know, we had four-wheel drive trucks and boats and Suburbans rolling around or, you know, large industrial plants and whatnot."
[email protected] has been a great help to me on Cutting Taxes, creating great new healthcare programs at low cost,… https://t.co/8Y4VAfVZK3— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1529888899.0
North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District
North Carolina was recently devastated by Hurricane Florence, which has raised discussions of climate change in a historically skeptical state. The congressional seat in the Ninth District, which felt the impacts of Florence, is currently up for grabs after the Republican incumbent lost in the primary.
Running on the Republican side is Mark Harris, a conservative Baptist preacher and avid Trump supporter. While Harris has run for office before, he has not won.
In 2014 when asked if he believed in climate change, he simply said, "No."
Running against Harris is Dan McCready, a Harvard Business School graduate and former marine who started a solar investment fund after graduating from Harvard. Polls show a tight race. Though both candidates were asked at a debateabout their views on public education and climate change, neither directly answered the question.
This remains a close race as in two recent polls McCready led in one and Harris led in the other (although both were within the margin of error). McCready does have a major fundraising advantage over Harris for the last weeks of the campaign making this a competitive race in a district that was expected to be an easy win for Republicans.
And while the candidates aren't talking about climate change, their future constituents increasingly are. As The Washington Post recently reported, the state's extreme weather has been making believers out of former climate deniers. One Trump supporter reportedly said, "I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening."
Florida Governor Race
The race to be the next Governor of Florida will conclude long before the recovery from Hurricane Michael does. Notably, the current governor of Florida, Rick Scott, banned use of the phrase "climate change" in government communications.
The Republican candidate is Ron DeSantis, a three-term Congressman who recently resigned from Congress to run full-time for governor. DeSantis is a Trump favorite, with the President recently tweeting: "A great Congressman and top student at Harvard & Yale."
In a recent debate DeSantis said he doesn't "want to be an alarmist" — a favorite term of climate science deniers — when talking about climate change, despite commenting shortly after Hurricane Michael devastated the panhandle.
Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum got straight to the point, saying if he is elected, the people of Florida will "have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state." He is also campaigning on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to renewable energy.
The co-owner of the only house on Mexico Beach that survived Hurricane Michael with barely any damage summed up the reality when speaking with DeSmog's Julie Dermansky: "I'm tired of politicians lying to us. The American people need to understand they are lying. The people who are denying climate change are not telling the truth." Incidentally, he's a Republican.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Rep. Rohrabacher is a longtime Congressman representing Orange County, California, who is known for climate denying statements such as, "I disagree with the theory that CO2, done by mankind, is a major cause for climate change."
Despite his district's typically conservative history (though Hillary Clinton beat Trump there by two points in 2016), Rohrabacher finds himself in a competitive race against Democrat Harley Rouda. Last week the Los Angeles Times reported that a national Super PAC closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan stopped spending money on Rohrabacher's race — a troubling sign for his campaign— but perhaps a positive one for the climate.
Texas Senate Race
Former Republican presidential candidate and incumbent Texas Senator Ted Cruz is well known for his climate denialism. Now facing a tough challenge from newcomer Beto O'Rourke, Cruz gave a classic non-response to a question about climate change in a recent debate.
"Of course, the climate is changing," Cruz said. "The climate has been changing since the dawn of time."
On the other hand, Cruz's opponent O'Rourke was quite clear on his position on climate change at the debate: "The climate is changing. And man-made climate change is a fact."
In a state that suffered $125 billion in damages from Hurricane Harvey — which broke rainfall records for a continental U.S.city — 70 percent of adults agree global warming is happening, though only 42 percent believe that it will harm them personally.
Pennsylvania Governor Race
After belittling as "a little young and naive" an 18-year-old constituent who asked him about climate change (and his campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry), Pennsylvania Republican candidate for governor Scott Wagner said, "Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist?"
In past comments, Wagner has used typical denier talking points when discussing climate change, saying: "I haven't been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year — you know the rotation of the earth. We're moving closer to the sun."
He went on to say: "We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can."
In case you were wondering: No, human body heat is not causing climate change and neither is the position of the Earth to the sun. And no, climate scientists don't think we're doing the best we can.
In a debate for the open Senate seat in Arizona, Republican candidate Martha McSally responded to a question about climate change by saying, "I can't believe this is the last question" and didn't directly give an answer. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema said, "I do believe that climate change is real."
However, in response to a similar question by the Arizona Republic earlier this month, McSally, a representative who has frequently voted against the climate, acknowledged: "Our environment and the Earth's climate are changing and there is likely a human element to it." But she went on to call Obama's signature climate change program, the Clean Power Plan, "crushing regulation" and failed to offer any specific approach to addressing climate change in Arizona.
Not exactly denial but not exactly embracing the scientific consensus either.
And while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) isn't up for reelection this year, he lost no time in the wake of Hurricane Michael's devastation to unleash a string of climate denial talking points, including doubt that climate change is substantially caused by human activity.
When asked by CNN's Jake Tapper what he would tell his children 20 years from now about what he did to help stop the impacts of climate change, Rubio didn't have good news for the kids: "We're going to have to do something … But I'm also not going to destroy our economy. There's a reality here."
Check out this video for more of Rubio's views on climate change:
Climate Change and Electoral Politics
As the impacts of climate change become more severe, widespread, and frequent, expect climate change to play a bigger role in electoral politics (it certainly has plenty of room to grow).
For example, one of the few Republicans in the country who is outspoken in acknowledging climate change is Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) who represents southern Florida, including the Florida Keys. If nothing is done about sea level rise, much of his district may be underwater in a few decades.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Tara Lohan
How little do elected officials care about climate change? Look no further than a recent U.S. Senate hearing about the biggest threats facing the country, where lawmakers asked a single question about global warming during the entire three-hour event.
Sadly, this hearing occurred just days after the world's leading scientific body on climate change warned that the world has a mere dozen years to avoid catastrophic impacts.
Despite the urgency of the climate crisis, getting elected officials in the U.S. to commit to genuine solutions has been slow going, to say the least.
Nathaniel Stinnett has some idea of why and what to do about it.
Stinnett worked for years as a consultant and advisor on political campaigns and for advocacy nonprofits. A few years ago he noticed that polls showed that climate change and environmental issues were usually last among priorities for likely voters.
But that's not because Americans don't care about those issues, he said. Polls of American adults show that tens of millions do care deeply about those issues. They're just not good voters compared to people who vote on issues like immigration, which is the top priority among voters in this year's midterm election.
So in 2015 Stinnett launched the Environmental Voter Project with the goals of identifying environmental advocates who don't vote and then turning them out for any and all elections.
The group calculated that close to 16 million environmentalists didn't vote in the 2014 midterms, and around 10 million didn't vote in 2016's presidential election.
It's hoped that the more people vote, the more action will finally be taken by the politicians who get elected. "More facts or fancy arguments are not going to convince politicians to lead on climate change," he said. "All they care about is getting enough votes, so that's all we care about."
In just a few years of effort, the results are already encouraging.
Most other voting-oriented initiatives follow two typical strategies. Some groups focus on registering people who have never voted. Others, including nearly everyone running a political campaign or advocating for an issue, focus on turning out likely voters who align with their candidate or cause.
That means that very few organizations (if any) end up talking to people who are registered but simply don't show up on Election Day. There's a reason for that: "If I'm trying to elect you governor of California, I'm not going to spend your money talking to people I know aren't going to vote," said Stinnett. "That's how I get fired."
And that's where the Environmental Voter Project's mission differs. They don't endorse candidates or lobby for issues. They aren't trying to win any elections. They don't even try to convince people to care more about climate change and the environment.
Instead they find people who already believe in the cause but don't currently vote.
"And instead of changing their minds, we change their behavior and turn them into more consistent voters," he said. "We don't focus on elections. We focus on changing the electorate."
In other words, the Environmental Voter Project plays the long game.
That's because politicians are only interested in issues that are important to voters, not nonvoters. "Nothing motivates a politician more than winning or losing an election," said Stinnett. "If you get more environmentalists to vote, you're going to get more politicians leading on environmental issues. Our goal is to have real environmental leadership not just at the federal level, but also at the state and local level."
The organization uses extensive polling and publicly available data to build predictive models that can identify people who are likely to say that climate change and environmental issues are one of their top two priorities. Then they check that list against voting records to find their targets.
After that staff and 1,800 volunteers use a combination of contact methods including calling, texting, door-to-door canvassing, direct mail and digital advertising.
It's hard work, and while some people may be frustrated by the sheer number of people who care about the environment but don't vote, Stinnett sees a tremendous opportunity.
"We live in a world where it's increasingly hard to get people to change their minds, especially when we're talking about climate change and other environmental issues," he said. "But if we're talking about finding people who are already with us and slightly tweaking their actions, it's a little bit easier."
The Environmental Voter Project tested out its methods for the first two years in Massachusetts before expanding last year to Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
How effective have their efforts been? The group reported that by using mail and digital advertising, it was able to increase turnout between 2.8 and 4.5 percent. In-person canvassing bumps up turnout by 4.9 to 6.9 percent.
And because the group was focusing on every single election, big or small, there were some people who got contacted for four elections in a single year. "By then end of the fourth election there were people that were voting at a 12.1 percent higher rate than our control group," Stinnett said.
The reason that number is so high, they believe, is that others took notice of their results. It only takes two months after you vote for your name to show up on voter records, so after nonvoters start turning out for elections, other campaigns begin to identify them as likely voters.
"It was like the cavalry would come in and we were sending this signal to the marketplace that these people were now voters," said Stinnett. "And then all these well-funded campaigns were coming in and turning out these people at no cost to us."
And here's the unexpected thing about EVP's strategy and success: Even though it's targeting environmentalists, its messaging rarely ever mentions the environment. Instead it plays on people's desires to fit in with their peers.
This kind of social-norms messaging is used a lot these days. There are apps that motivate you to work out by comparing your run to your friend's or get you to save electricity by telling you how much energy your neighbor uses.
The Environmental Voter Project employs similar tactics to turn out voters.
For example, a target might receive a mailing letting her know how many people in her building voted in the last election. "Sometimes we remind them that whether they vote or not is public record, sometimes we'll even send them copies of their voter records and tell them we'll follow up after the election," said Stinnett.
The project also uses voter pledges, which he says work surprisingly well in convincing people to keep their promise and vote. "Most people want to be known as honest promise keepers," he said. And that relates to another concept they employ: expressive choice theory.
Instead of rationally trying to convince someone of the importance of their vote (which would be rational choice theory), EVP focuses on changing the person's behavior to take advantage of how they want to express themselves or how they want to view themselves, Stinnett explains.
While that all may sound a bit pushy, Stinnett doesn't care. "It isn't like the climate crisis is a small thing," he said. "If getting a little aggressive with social-pressure techniques can dramatically increase the number of environmentalists that vote, you better believe we're going to do it."
Right now people in the U.S. are fixated on Nov. 6 and what the midterm election may bring, but Stinnett and his colleagues are already shifting their focus to the mayoral elections of spring 2019.
Every election, he believes, is an opportunity to change behavior and eventually policy.
"The climate crisis is not some disease for which we have no cure," he said. "All we're missing is political leadership. We already have all the policy solutions. We just don't have people willing to enact them."
Stinnett believes that voting, which takes the average American just 14 minutes, is one of the most significant actions you can take to save the planet.
"Simply by becoming a voter on public voter records you become a part of the (unfortunately very small) group of Americans who drive policy," Stinnett said. And while some people who care about the environment have made lifestyle changes to tread more lightly on the planet, they still haven't shown up to vote en masse.
"But once we start doing that, it's amazing how quickly things can change," he said.
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.