So what should candidates for the 2020 election be paying attention to? Polls show that climate change has jumped to near the top of voters’ concerns. All the major Democratic presidential candidates have released detailed climate action plans, and CNN recently aired a seven-hour Climate Town Hall. This increased concern matches results from a survey by LuntzGlobal conducted in May of this year:
- By a margin of more than eight to one, American voters are more worried about climate change now than they were just one year ago.
- With concern about climate change increasing in both parties, 60 percent of voters want Congress to take a new approach.
- 69 percent of GOP voters are worried that their party’s stance on climate change is hurting them with young voters.
- Four out of five of voters want Congress to put politics aside and reach a bipartisan solution
- Seventy-five percent of voters want the government to limit carbon emissions.
We are fortunate here in Nevada to have a governor who has made climate change a priority of his administration and has already taken bold steps in that direction. Recently, he signed Nevada onto the U.S. Climate Alliance, joining 22 other states in a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change. And let’s not forget the new law that pledges Nevada to reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Right now Nevada boasts approximately 32,000 jobs in renewable energy with more on the horizon as we move toward the new 50 percent standard.
Nevada is at the forefront of climate impacts. Former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada stated recently to reporters that, “The climate crisis is the greatest threat facing our planet today, and it could be the greatest crisis ever.” He noted that Las Vegas is warming faster than any U.S. city, and that wildfires were once rare but 1 million acres of Nevada land burned in the last year and climate change is blamed for clouding pristine Lake Tahoe.
Climate change is also contributing to Nevada’s health care woes. Evidence clearly shows that climate change increases lung diseases by increasing ground ozone and fine particulates that settle in the lungs and cause inflammation. Warming is extending and worsening our Nevada allergy season. Climate change and carbon pollution can also worsen heart disease, increase strokes, and some cancers. Recent evidence shows a connection between carbon pollutants and dementia, attention deficit disorder and other neurologic problems. The Desert Research Institute recently released a study that found an alarming increase in heat-related deaths, a nearly fivefold increase in Nevada, 29 to 139, from 2014 to 2017. Nevada athletes and outdoor workers could see more heat stroke. Heat can also bring in new mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika and Dengue Fever. In addition, weather disasters, like fires, floods and excessive heat have been shown to worsen mental health disorders, increase substance abuse and violence.
Grassroots activism has spurred a dramatic increase in discussion about responding to the climate crisis. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a non-partisan organization with over 500 chapters all over the world, including three here in Nevada: Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City, boasting hundreds of members from all walks of life. CCL works with elected leaders of all political persuasions in a respectful, non-confrontational way to educate them about climate change and improve the discourse in order to effect action. CCL also engages business leaders, local organizations, and other influential members of the community.
As climate driven calamities remind us of the urgency to address climate change, a consensus is emerging for a powerful solution that has support across the political spectrum: Put a robust price on carbon pollution and allocate the revenue to American households. CCL has long advocated for such a measure and now this plan exists in the House, HR 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, now with 60 co-sponsors. Bipartisan and revenue-neutral, it’s good for people, and the economy. This plan has over 1,000 endorsements from economists, former chairs of the Federal Reserve, faith-based communities, environmental groups, non-profits, business leaders and more. Results of the aforementioned LuntzGlobal survey show, a Carbon Dividends Plan has majority support across party lines – including four to one support overall, two to one support from GOP voters and 75 percent support from Republicans under 40.
Nevadans should keep up the pressure on elected leaders and insist that responding to the climate crisis is part of every conversation. The more they hear from us in support of this plan, the more they’ll know we’re serious about combating climate change.