Written by Judith A. Ross
A few decades ago, the word, ‘cancer,’ was uttered in whispers only. No one wanted to talk about it. Then, in 1974, First Lady Betty Ford started a national conversation when she publicly shared her breast cancer diagnosis. In the process, she saved the lives of countless women by raising awareness and helping them overcome their fear of the unknown. (And, it should be noted, she was a mom.)
We need the same kind of leadership and open discussion when it comes to climate change. Although it was widely discussed in the media all summer, our presidential candidates have only just begun to mention it.
But a national conversation requires that all candidates and elected officials make addressing climate change an integral part of their political agendas. As it happens, doing so may help them with voters.
A recent study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication finds that “… taking a pro-climate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters.”
According to the study:
- Fifty-five percent of all registered voters say they will consider candidates’ views on global warming when deciding how to vote.
- Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities believe global warming is happening and support action by the U.S. to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
- Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than Republicans on the issue.
- A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters.
- Policies to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy are favored by a majority of registered voters across party lines.
Discussions of climate change are not toxic, but air pollution is. As President Obama told delegates at his party’s convention this month,
… my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet- because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.
We need a candid conversation at full volume. No whispering allowed!
When attending town meetings and campaign events, help candidates channel their inner Betty Ford. Demand that they announce loudly and clearly what they will do to clean up the environment. Remind them that we can’t afford to wait another 4 years to fix the climate crisis: We need a plan to end greenhouse gas pollution NOW.
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