Why Voting For Climate Is Important To Me
By Corinne Gentile, Alter Eco's Foodservice and Canadian Sales Manager
As someone passionate about sustainability – the crazy girl who brings her own reusable bamboo fork everywhere – many of my friends have asked me about the things that they could be doing in their everyday lives to positively impact the planet. Right now, I have one word: VOTE.
As the 2020 presidential election looms and the Covid-19 crisis continues, the share of all voters who say climate change will be “very important” to their vote (42%) trails behind other leading issues such as the economy (79%), health care (68%) and the coronavirus outbreak (62%), according to the Pew Research Center this month.
But climate change should be seen as “very important” to every American and every person on planet Earth, especially those who are concerned about health and the economy.
Here’s why I will be voting for climate in 2020:
Because we’re running out of time
It’s no longer a question of if climate change is a problem but more of when and how it will impact us. If you still aren’t sure and want some more evidence, here are some great scientific resources for you.
Global temperatures have already risen 1 degree Celsius from preindustrial times. Many scientists have agreed that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius would bring about catastrophic effects. In order to say well below 2 degrees Celsius, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global carbon dioxide emissions need to get down to zero by 2050. If we can’t meet that goal, we can expect a world of worsening food and water shortages, collapsing polar ice sheets, and a mass die-off of species and coral reefs.
In my own home state of Florida, the sea level is rising faster than ever, at 1 inch every 3 years. Many experts say that my home of Fort Lauderdale is likely to be under water by 2050, only visible at the low tide. It hurts to wonder if I’ll be able to bring my own children to Hollywood Beach, where my grandmother used to take me.
In my new home state of California, shorter, more intense winters leave longer dry periods, a contributing factor to fires that are ravaging the state, forcing people to evacuate their homes, making it harder for us to breathe, and even blocking out the sun completely one day this year.
No matter where you live, if you look closely, you will see that the earth is out of balance. As atmospheric carbon reaches historic levels, we are seeing record temperatures and cascading effects.
Unfortunately, under Trump’s administration, we have seen some of the most drastic rollbacks of climate legislation and protections in US history. The list numbers nearly 100 environmental rollbacks, including The Clean Car Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act.
The United States is the world’s largest economy and the world’s second-largest carbon emitter, making it imperative that we as a country come together on this issue and set an example as global leaders. This is not going to happen if the next four years are under Trump.
Under Joe Biden’s “Clean Energy Revolution” plan, he will aim to ensure the US achieves 100% clean energy and net zero emissions by 2050, invest in infrastructure to withstand the inevitable impacts of climate change, and position the US once again as a global leader on this issue. On Trump’s campaign page, he does not specifically address climate change at all and has been inconsistent in his messaging about the issue. Admittedly, no politician is perfect, and it is up to us as citizens to stay vigilant and hold them accountable. Even still, a vote for Biden-Harris is far and away the right choice on climate change.
Here’s the thing. We know that we have the means NOW to draw down carbon in our atmosphere and return the earth to its balance in ways that would improve our own health and allow our economy to flourish, with enough food, water, and energy for all. But we are running out of time, and we don’t have another four years to waste.
Because we’re all concerned about health
As the world reels during the Covid-19 crisis, we have all come to be acutely aware of our own health and wellbeing. I’ve felt especially anxious about the health of my grandmother as cases surge across Florida. Despite heroic efforts of medical professionals, we clearly saw the limits of our healthcare systems when hospitals in New York just could not take any more patients.
According to the CDC, climate change means increased air pollution, which exacerbates asthma and cardiovascular disease. Extreme heat and severe weather disasters are fatal for many. Environmental degradation is leading to forced climate migrations, malnutrition, and mental health issues.
We also know that minority and low-income communities are most adversely impacted by the health effects of climate change. Recently, researchers have shown how Black and Hispanic neighborhoods suffer worse heat today than other parts of town, a legacy of racist housing policies. Hotter days threaten to widen the racial achievement gap in schools. Fossil fuel pollution often poses the greatest health hazard to low-income communities.
And despite all of this, during a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system, Trump is rolling back the Clean Air Act. Does that make any sense?
I think I’ll choose to vote for a future that moves towards cleaner energy, cleaner air, safe drinking water, and abundant food for all.
Because I care about the economy, jobs and livelihoods
Covid-19 has also brought about devastating job loss and a painful economic recession, leaving many to worry about how to pay the bills. While emissions regulations or other climate policies may seem pesky and hindersome to business, the alternative will cost us much more in the long term.
The federal government’s National Climate Assessment warns that even moderate warming could cost the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year by century’s end. The sea level rise I mentioned in Florida, for example, will cost the city of Fort Lauderdale $1 billion for a stormwater plan to deal with increased flooding.
The largest climate change-related economic losses in the U.S. will be from lost labor productivity. Warmer winters could mean a $2 billon loss in winter recreation, rising water temperatures and loss of habitat could decimate the fishing industry, and destruction of forests could decrease tourism.
The oil and gas industry support 9.8 million jobs, or 5.6% of total US employment. We need to ensure that a reduction in reliance on oil and gas and towards clean energy includes programs for training and job placement for these workers.
The good news is that climate change can bring revenue too. The Carbon Disclosure Project reported that 225 of the world’s 500 biggest companies believe climate change could generate over $2.1 trillion in new business prospects.
As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said, “We will pay for climate breakdown one way or another, so it makes sense to spend the money now to reduce emissions rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences.”
Climate change is THE issue of our lifetime, connected to all aspects of human wellbeing, justice and equity. While it can seem daunting, we do have the tools to turn this ship around.
Even though each of us is just one person, if we all come together and make our voices heard, we can (and must) advocate for a different future. No politician is ever perfect, but voting for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris is an important first step in moving in the right direction for our health, our economy, and our planet.