A new report on climate change has gotten a lot of media coverage this week. Ninety leading scientist from around the world concluded that fast action is necessary if we are to protect ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change. (See a breakdown of the report here.)
But given the chaotic Trump-fueled election 25 days away, is it possible for candidates to talk about an issue like this in their campaigns? Can a report from something called the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) really play in Orange County, California or Upstate New York?
The answer is yes, if you make it relevant for voters – and avoid scaring them so much they tune out. Here are a few guidelines for making climate change an issue in your race.
Let people know what’s at stake AND that it’s solvable.
News stories on the new report have focused on the danger of climate change, and you should let voters know that there are serious consequences for our economy, national security, and health if we don’t act.
But also let them know that there are smart solutions that can solve this. For instance, asking companies to pay when they pollute will give them an incentive to reduce pollution and provide money for rebuilding America’s road, bridges, and national parks.
For instance, here’s a bill (by a House Republican!) that does just that.
Talk about the costs of climate change, not just the natural impacts.
People care about polar bears and coral reefs, but you’ll broaden the appeal to new voters if you lead by talking about the how climate change will hit us in the wallet.
Citibank – hardly crazy environmentalists – estimates that unchecked climate change will cost the economy over $40 trillion. There will be agricultural impacts, damage from stronger storms like Hurricane Michael, and rising seas in coastal towns and cities.
There are local examples in every state. And there’s a big upside to solving this: more clean energy means more jobs. There are now many more jobs in the wind and solar industries than in coal.
Put climate change in the context of other air pollution issues.
Americans, regardless of party, hate air pollution. And they love clean energy.
Fixing climate change by turning to renewable sources of energy will not only help safeguard our climate, it will reduce other harmful pollution – like mercury and soot. That will mean fewer asthma attacks for kids and fewer respiratory problems for older Americans.
We owe it to our kids.
There’s no party label on grand-parenting. Everyone wants to leave a better world to their children and grandchildren.
Just like we shouldn’t leave them a pile of government debt, we shouldn’t leave them billions of tons of climate pollution in our atmosphere – and the enormous costs that go with it. You don’t have to cast blame or make a “political argument,” just let them know that NASA and every major American scientific organization recognizes the realty and danger of climate change, and it’s our responsibility to solve it.
In some places your opponent might questioning the scientific validity of the report, or even climate change itself. This is your chance to show how out of touch they are. Nothing makes a candidate look more disconnected from reality with under-30s and educated voters than dismissing climate change.
If they claim it is too expensive to fix, point out the much larger costs of not acting. Let everyone know you’re for smart, efficient, pro-growth solutions.
If they act like it’s not important, ask them what’s unimportant about huge economic costs, more damaging storms, drought, increased asthma attacks, and our children’s future. You are willing to take on tough challenges and they’re ignoring a real threat to Americas’ future prosperity.
Climate change affects everyone everywhere, and should be an issue in every campaign.
Here are some resources: