This story is part of Now cover the climate, a global journalistic collaboration that strengthens reporting on climate history.
W.Hat follows are Not Candidate Notes. Rather, this impartial guide aims to educate voters, help journalists decide which races to watch, and examine what the 2020 elections could mean for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
- 1 Is the White House going green?
- 2 Will Democrats flip the Senate and enough to pass a green New Deal?
- 3 Will local and state races drive climate progress?
- 4 Will influencers usher in a green new era?
Is the White House going green?
Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate issue in the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, pulls the United States back from the Paris Agreement and has accelerated the development of fossil fuels. His climate policy appears to be when he tweeted in January when he turned down a proposal by the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect New York City from storm surges: “Get your pugs and buckets ready.”
Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with such a weak climate position that activists gave it an “F”, called Trump a “climate arsonist” during the recent California wildfires. Biden supports a $ 2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while cutting emissions – a Green New Deal except for the name. It is also striking that his fellow campaigner, California Senator Kamala Harris, has advocated phasing out fossil fuel production – a politically explosive scientific imperative.
The race will be decided in a handful of battlefield states, five of which are already facing severe climatic hazards: Florida (hurricanes and sea level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods) and Arizona (heat waves and drought) ). Public concern is growing But will this concern translate into voices in these states?
Will Democrats flip the Senate and enough to pass a green New Deal?
Since the Democrats will almost certainly retain their majority in the US House of Representatives, the Senate will decide whether a potential Biden administration can actually make climate progress. Democrats have to take three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn’t. But since some Democrats, especially Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, eschew aggressive climate policies, Democrats will likely have to get five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.
Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, target six Republicans who polls say are vulnerable.
- Steve Daines from Montana who denies climate science
- Martha McSally from Arizona
- Thom Tillis from North Carolina
- Susan Collins from Maine
- Joni Ernst from Iowa (funded by Charles Koch)
- John James from Michigan (also a Cook beneficiary)
Republican senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the democratic candidates are doctors – not a bad pass in the midst of a pandemic – who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent financed by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross is pushing for a transition from oil, although its openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve lessen its appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives a lifetime voting record of 8 percent from the League of Conservation Voters.
In the House of Representatives, environmentalists are working to elect these candidates, in one case against a democratic establishment:
- Beth Doglio from Washington State
- Georgette Gomez from California
- Marie Newman from Illinois
- Cameron Webb from Virginia
- Mike Siegel and Wendy Davis from Texas
Will local and state races drive climate progress?
The Climate Hawks
For a long time, under Democratic and Republican leadership, Washington was a graveyard for tough climate action. However, governors can promote or block renewable energy. The races in Vermont and New Hampshire are worth watching. Attorneys General can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change. Climate Hawks are running for best law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislation can accelerate or retard climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.
The climate policy decision-makers
Perhaps the most powerful and most overlooked climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructures are built. They regulate whether electricity suppliers increase solar and energy efficiency or stick to the carbon-rich status quo. Regulatory coverage and complete corruption are not uncommon.
A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-year-old commissioner known as the godfather of the sun in the state is making a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law allows utility companies to contribute to commissioners’ election campaigns, companies can buy their own regulators. That could explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.
In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a veteran of the U.S. Army Native Americans, is seeking a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which controls the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what HuffPost The Democrat Kelly Stone, who advocates the phasing out of oil production, is called “the most important environmental race in the country” and is a candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, which, despite its name, decides which oil, gas and electricity companies operate in America’s leading petroleum state are can build.
Will influencers usher in a green new era?
The story largely underestimated in any US election is how few Americans vote. In 2016 around 90 million, about four out of ten eligible votersdid not cast a vote. Lawyer Nathan Stinnett claims that 10 million of these non-voters still identify as environmentalists: they support green politics and even donate to activist groups; They just don’t vote. Stinnetts Environmental voter project is working to awaken this sleeping giant.
The sunrise movement
The young climate activists are now the Sunrise movement are already winning elections with a blatant Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise brought the Green New Deal to the national political discussion and assisted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey in drafting the congressional resolution of the same name. In 2020, Sunrise helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in democratic primaries. Markey sales representative Joe Kennedy Jr. was the first defeat a Kennedy ever suffered in an election in Massachusetts. But can Sunrise win against Republicans in the fall general election?
The star power
And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and lots of money marketing have come together in a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote for the 2020 climate. Latinos have long been the US population hardest hit by climate change. Now, Vote like a madre The goal is to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas and Arizona to vote. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak and Lin-Manuel Miranda urge the mothers to make a “little promise” to vote for the climate future of their children in November. Even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though not an easy task, could affect results in three states. Trump has to win to stay president, which brings us back to the first category: “Is the White House going green?”