5 ways climate issues showed up in the US election

Most Americans see climate change as a serious threat, fracking didn’t swing the vote in key states, but climate-vulnerable Florida went to Trump despite his denial

As the race for the White House enters the home stretch, victory is within reach for Joe Biden – raising hopes for a renewed US commitment to the climate crisis after four years of denial under the President Donald Trump.

For the first time in history, the climate was very present on the ballot during this election. Voters had to choose between climate inaction or a $2 trillion green revolution.

From the focus on clean energy in presidential debates to the outcome of major Senate races, here are five climate takeaways.

1. Most Americans view climate change as a serious threat

60% of Americans now consult climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, compared to 44% in 2009. The rise in concern mainly concerns the Democrats. In one investigation in august68% of Biden supporters said the climate was very important to their vote, compared to just 11% of Trump voters. exit polls showed that two-thirds of voters see climate change as a serious problem.

For the first time, climate change featured prominently in presidential debates. In both debates, Biden and Trump were asked about how they would create jobs while fighting climate change and how they would ensure environmental justice.

The focus on climate in this election shows that “environmental issues matter to voters and are increasingly becoming issues that candidates and campaigns can’t help but discuss,” Hannah Blatt, communications director at EDF Action, advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, told Climate Home News.

2. The clean energy revolution has already begun

Biden climate planmost ambition ever presented by a presidential candidate, pledging to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050 and 100% clean electricity by 2035; while Trump promised voters that the United States would “remain the number one producer of oil and natural gas on earth.”

Trump’s focus on defending coal, oil and gas jobs does not represent the view of most Americans. According to a Politico investigation69% of registered US voters – 83% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans – support the United States’ transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

In the blue and red states, the green transition is already well underway, Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and former adviser to the UN secretary general on sustainable energy, told Climate Home News. “The genie came out of the bottle in red [Republican] states, even with a Trump administration.

Texas, the oil and gas heartland of the United States, has the largest onshore wind market in the country, with more than 27 GW of capacity and another 7.5 GW in the pipeline, according to Kyte. Florida installed more solar capacity in the first quarter of this year than California, the top state for renewables, and plans to add another 7.4 GW of capacity over the next five years, it said. she adds.

3. States elected as pro-climate senators

There have been several big wins for the climate in the Senate races. In Colorado, Democrat John Hickenlooper defeated Republican Senator Cory Gardner. Former geologist Hickenlooper supports a goal of net zero by 2050, ending fossil fuel subsidies and banning new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

“Climate-motivated voters everywhere, but especially in states like Colorado, where this summer’s wildfires have brought the climate emergency to the forefront,” said Jamie Henn, co-founder of US environmental group 350.org. , to Climate Home News.

In a survey by the Environmental Defense Fund, 77% of Colorado voters said they were most concerned about climate change because of the wildfires. Two-thirds of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a Senate candidate who would support aggressive action to tackle climate change. “Hickenlooper clearly benefited from that,” Henn said.

With an economy and way of life so dependent on our vast natural resources and the outdoor recreation industry, Colorado voters are looking for leaders who will take this issue seriously and push for bold climate action at the federal level. Amy Gray, an activist at 350.org, told Climate Home.

In Arizona and Michigan, Democrats with strong environmental backgrounds also won Senate seats. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who backs massive investments in renewable energy, beat Trump supporter Martha McSally in Arizona. In Michigan, Gary Peters, who has promised to protect residents from water contamination and toxic chemicals, unseated Republican John James.

4. Florida supported Trump despite climate concerns

In Florida, the US state most at risk from coastal flooding, voters highlighted their serious concern about climate change in the run-up to the election. In a survey of New York Times54% said they were “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that sea level rise caused by global warming would have a significant impact on their lives.

Despite the state’s vulnerability to climate change, the majority of Floridians voted for Trump on Wednesday. “Public polls have shown the climate to be a vulnerability for Donald Trump. This is especially true in Florida, where voters care a lot about the climate — but Florida is a big, complicated state, and eventually other issues came to the fore,” Blatt said.

Democratic-leaning Miami-Dade went to Trump, as voters of Venezuelan and Cuban descent responded to the president’s portrayal of Biden as a radical socialist.

Trump’s high vote count was tied to “the socialist fear tag attached to Biden, of which the Green New Deal was a part,” Kyte said. Trump’s anti-socialist rhetoric “has worked to get people who escaped left-wing populism and communism to Miami,” she added.

5. Fracking hasn’t swung the vote in key states

Fracking was a contentious issue in the election. Trump vehemently supports fracking, seeing it as a key technology in his defense of jobs in the oil and gas industry. As the election neared, Trump accused Biden of being anti-fracking and said a Democratic victory would be “economic death sentence for Pennsylvania”.

Biden’s climate plan includes a proposal to end new oil and gas development on federal lands, but he has repeatedly said he will not ban fracking.

Despite Trump’s line of attack, Biden has won swing states that support thousands of fracking jobs. On Wednesday, he won Colorado and New Mexico and was expected to overtake Trump’s lead in Pennsylvania as hundreds of thousands of mail-in votes were counted.

“The majority of Pennsylvanians oppose fracking. People support clean energy and want politicians willing to stand up to big oil,” Henn said. According to a Climate Power 2020 survey73% of Pennsylvania voters support plans to transition the United States to a clean energy economy by 2050 and only 32% support the fracking industry.

Teresa H. Sadler