By Susan Nugent, Climate Reality Project
The president-elect has stated that addressing climate change will be one of his top priorities. This decision will not only address our crisis, but also help to unify a divided population.
One realization from this past election is how polarized our nation has become. Conscious of this political schism, the new administration can focus on issues upon which we all agree.
Already 78% of the population understands that climate needs our attention. So tackling this issue will bring people from both parties together, joining forces to confront a shared problem.
Eight out of 10 people note that human activity affects climate change, according to a Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation Poll. Four of 10 people label the problem a climate crisis. Pew Research Center reports that two-thirds of Americans want the president and Congress to make the environment and climate change a top priority.
In 2019, the American Meteorological Society reported that 60% of the population in three cities expect that either they or their cities will be affected by climate change within the next 30 years.
Pew Research Center studies indicate a majority of Americans say they are already seeing local effects of climate change. Republican millennials are far more concerned about the effects of climate change than are Republican baby boomers. Yale and George Mason universities offer similar findings, indicating that Americans want action on climate change.
All of these statistics suggest that climate action will unite various factions in our country. Democrats will be working with Republicans; young and old would work together; diverse populations must also be engaged in this transition.
The president-elect has indicated that he will reconnect the United States with the rest of the world, once again signing on to the Paris Agreement. Further, he has stated he will renew the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. He recognizes how much we all value our national parks and wildlife refuges, consequently making plans to restrict drilling in these areas.
This issue can be solved by us, the eight out of 10 who know we exacerbate climate change, the two-thirds of Americans wanting the environment and climate change to be a top priority, and the millennials who realize their lives will be most affected.
Joe Biden’s major opponent will be the Senate, unless Georgia gives him a 50-50 split in January runoffs. We need to have our senators’ and representatives’ numbers on speed-dial.
Every time any issue is brought to the forefront and we don’t hear Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott articulating their support, we must remind them that Miami is ground zero; that Florida’s economy will be forever changed if we don’t save our environment; that diverse populations deserve equitable access to a sustainable future; and that millennials must realize the promise of a carbon-neutral society.
On these issues, we are the clear majority. Our senators need to realize that. We are working together to ensure a carbon-neutral future for us by 2050 and for all future generations.
But if we do not put pressure on our Congress members, we might as well be in the minority. Having elected a president who is acting on climate, we now must begin the more difficult task — supporting him.
Our own senators would benefit by responding to the wishes of the majority, not just their funders, if they wish to return to Congress following our next elections. We must challenge our senators to unite this state for a crisis affecting us all.
Those of us who have climate change action as one of our four priorities also must reach across the aisle. We must stress Florida’s climate crisis. When we give specific examples of climate impact, our examples ought to come from our local experiences.
This past summer, Miami had the hottest week on record. Our hurricane season is still going strong in mid-November.
The flow of our springs is decreasing as our aquifers become depleted. Sinkholes threaten homes as groundwater levels fluctuate.
Eight out of 10 of us should be keeping our elected officials at all levels of government aware of how climate change impacts us here and now. Contact lists require updating, and we must be compelled to start calling today.
Susan Nugent is a Climate Reality Project leader from Gainesville.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.