Midterm candidates should know: Climate is critical in this election

Madeleine Para and Jon Clark
Citizens’ Climate Lobby
In this photo provided by the National Park Service, is a washed out bridge from flooding at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. (National Park Service via AP)

Election season is kicking into high gear, and if you’re worried about our ability to preserve a livable climate, this is a time ripe with opportunities to make your voice heard.

As members of Congress run for reelection — and as opponents campaign to unseat them — candidates make themselves more accessible in order to get in front of as many voters as possible. Town hall meetings, campaign events and online forums will be popping up throughout the country from now until November.

More than ever, politicians are listening very attentively to their electorates’ concerns and making pledges to address them. Many issues are competing for their attention — inflation, high gas prices, gun violence, the war in Ukraine — but there are reasons why climate change is a critical issue in this election:

  • It’s hot out there, and climate change — caused by heat-trapping emissions pushing temperatures higher — is increasing the severity and frequency of heat waves. Of all the weather-related deaths in the U.S. each year, heat is the biggest killer. The current extreme heatwave in Texas has the Electric Reliability Council of Texas asking residents to conserve power saying: “With extreme hot weather driving record power demand across Texas, (ERCOT) is issuing a Conservation Appeal, asking Texans and Texas businesses to voluntarily conserve electricity.”
  • Wildfires no longer have a season; they happen year-round, fueled by climate change-induced heat and drought. Besides millions of acres burned every year and billions of dollars in damage, smoke from these fires makes people sick and sends them to the hospital.
  • Heavier rainfall, a result of warmer air holding and releasing more water, and changing weather patterns lead to more flooding that causes the kind of damage recently seen in Yellowstone National Park. Extreme downpours are a symptom of climate change we’re seeing more of locally.  Flash flooding is becoming more and more common in the Susquehanna Valley.
  • Climate change is outpacing our ability to recover and adapt to the new reality of extreme weather disasters. It will overwhelm us unless greenhouse gas emissions are quickly brought down.

With renewed urgency, Congress has discussed enacting climate policy through the reconciliation process that only requires a simple majority for Senate passage. Some advocates hoped the White House could use regulations to bring down carbon dioxide emissions, but the recent Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA severely restricts EPA’s ability to provide regulatory relief.

More:Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

More:Floods leave Yellowstone landscape ‘dramatically changed’

More:In light of EPA court ruling, new focus on states' power

Concerned citizens here in York are hopeful Congress will take steps through reconciliation to incentivize a transition to clean energy, but time is running short for the process, with most observers seeing the August recess as the deadline to reach a deal.

More will be needed in the next Congress to meet our commitment on emissions reductions. To make that happen, lawmakers need to get the message that climate action must be a priority. With the possibility that one or both chambers of Congress could flip in this election, bipartisanship will be the key to further progress on climate change. Advocates, therefore, must engage with lawmakers from both parties.

This is where the people need to show up … literally.

We need to show up at town hall events to share our concerns about climate change and ask what those seeking our vote plan to do about it. We need to show up at campaign events to tell incumbents and challengers that we’ll support those who prioritize climate change and back strong solutions. We need to show up, most importantly, at the polls in November, because whether or not you vote is public record, and politicians only care about the concerns of constituents who actually vote.

Pushing the climate issue during election season doesn't simply affect who ultimately wins that election. In fact, many races are already considered “safe” for one party or another. Instead, it's about making sure that every candidate, from any party, understands this critical issue and will prioritize solutions if and when they are elected. By showing up now, we can lay the groundwork for ambitious climate action in the next Congress.

— Madeleine Para is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a national advocacy organization generating the political will for climate solutions. Jon Clark is Appalachia regional coordinator for CCL.