Three Weeks to Get Climate into Congressional Races
An open letter to U.S. Climate Movement leaders we look to and wait to hear from:
Dear Ken Berlin, May Boeve, Richard Branson, Mike Brune, James Cameron, Aimée Christiansen, Leonardo DiCaprio, America Ferrera, Danielle Fugere, Al Gore, James Hansen, Katherine Hayhoe, Mark Hertsgaard, Lisa Hoyos, Sarah Shanley Hope, Brad Johnson, Van Jones, Gene Karpinski, Naomi Klein, Annie Leonard, Hunter Lovins, Bill Maher, Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, Elon Musk, Bill Nye, Mark Reynolds, David Roberts, Joe Romm, Mark Ruffalo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jigar Shah, Rebecca Solnit, Emily Southard, Tom Steyer, and Vien Truong
We two climate activists from California invite you all to promote a new tool to support everything you’re doing on climate change from now until Election Day.
It’s been shockingly hard to figure out what Congressional candidates have said and done on climate change. Now that changes!
The just-launched ClimateCongress Wikipedia Project makes easily accessible in one place concise, factual, and non-partisan information on what incumbents and challengers have said and done about climate change.
We’ve built a project website at ClimateCongress.us and a wiki at ClimateCongress.info where voters can already find completed profiles for EVERY 2016 Senate race and a few dozen House races so far. Now we’re recruiting crowdsourcers to fill in the rest of the House. And we’re getting ready to move short summaries of our research to Wikipedia.
Together, all of you we’re writing can count about ten million people among your memberships, supporters, and media audiences. Can you fit into your agenda one more way to energize many of them to spend as much time as they can between now and election day working for climate action?
Climate voters can work to get their candidates for House and Senate to answer a single question: “What will you do about climate change in 2017?” They can show up with that goal at every public event for every incumbent and contender, backed with the information we already have and are developing.
We’re asking you, now that you’ve heard about this resource and checked it out, to endorse it, write about it, and activate your networks. We ask you to help us achieve three goals. First, we welcome hundreds or thousands to start adding missing information. Second, we invite tens of thousands to like and promote this tool online. And finally, we envision tens or hundreds of thousands hearing your signal: “Now’s the time to find the next local election event this week, contact organizers and moderators, and show up with your questions about climate.”
Here’s our thinking behind this: We believe we have just enough time left to add climate as a new factor to many congressional races. For the first time, many voters are starting to pay serious attention to the “downticket” — the 34 Senate and 435 House seats at stake. A surge of questioning by climate voters and activists drawing from our research can inject climate into the mix during this election as never before.
A climate-friendly Congress is the biggest missing piece to get the world off fossil fuels fast enough to keep a healthy climate. This isn’t some future problem — it’s for over seven billion people now on earth. We have to start now! This past year, while we in the U.S. watched a political TV unreality show, every other country agreed to start a massive transition to clean energy. The ambitious but insufficient Paris agreement was held hostage to our domestic politics, restricted to what our Congress couldn’t block. It could have been far stronger.
This month, we have a tantalizing opportunity. Voters want easy-to-use tools to help them figure out how to choose their legislators. Some people put single issues on top of their agenda: justice, equality, guns, abortion. Why isn’t climate up there?
At the Senate and House level, much of the election is focused on local issues. In Congressional districts around the country, voters’ real world includes the air we breathe, the fuel we use, the jobs we create, the water we depend on, the storms and sea levels we monitor. These are all part of climate reality. That’s why some audiences applaud when people raise the issue of climate change.
Is working for a climate election too partisan? No! We commissioned and are making available online a set of Legal Guidelines for what different nonprofits can do, and our approach fits in just fine for 501(c)3s and c4s.
We may be at a critical electoral turning point — in ways that connect parties and climate. Though not all Democrats are on board on climate change, and not all Republicans are opponents, those labels map roughly to climate change. Pundits and journalists say the Senate could flip, and that even a change in power in the House is now possible. It would take less than that to get majorities in both houses that want to get going on climate. Most Republicans fear if they even consider market-based policies, they’ll violate anti-tax and anti-government pledges. The ones who want to break away from that in 2016 and 2017 need our recognition and support.
Is there any better way to spend time this month? If we succeed, it can be the greatest triumph of our lives. We’ll be able to boast to our children and grandchildren that this was the big turning point.
It’s taken us a while for the public to begin to understand the urgency of acting on climate, and the need to act decisively. We know even a small group of people can do something. We invite you to use the universal power of our 230-year-old democracy to say, “Let voters decide about our biggest challenge.”
An informed electorate needs credible information. We’ve built it. Now can you ask people to come? Thank you!