Protecting Climate Progress: ecoAmerica Leaders Gather to Discuss the Implications of the Election
Climate advocates in America (and around the world) woke up to a new reality on November 9th. We are all now looking for common ground to address the threats to climate progress that the Trump administration presents.
On November 29th, leaders from the Blessed Tomorrow, Climate for Health, and Path to Positive Communities programs and members of the media gathered in an open-forum call to discuss the implications of the election. Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association; Jackie Dupont-Walker, Director, Social Action Commission, AME Church; Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress; and Jonathan Voss, Vice President, Lake Research Partners joined ecoAmerica President Bob Perkowitz to explore how to protect our collective progress on climate solutions, and maximize our effectiveness over the coming weeks and months. Below is a summary of some of the major points discussed.
How did we get things so wrong in the election?
It was combination of things, including poor messaging. Our panelists pointed to the overwhelming prevalence of fake news and the inability of the media to impartially cover a candidate who “didn’t play by the rules.” Also mentioned were key election dynamics such as voter suppression, inaccurate polling, and the hidden Trump vote (see Jonathan Voss’ detailed analysis here). Our speakers reminded us that this was “not an election about climate change,” as the issue was barely discussed in the debates and by the media. They also cited a lack of inclusiveness in climate outreach. As one panelist said, “If we believe we are the trusted voices, we need to not only talk, but listen.”
Looking back, could we have done something differently to change the outcome?
We have the facts on our side – but we could have communicated them better. Multiple polls have shown that Americans believe climate change is happening, are concerned about it, and are strongly in favor of climate solutions, so “we need to insist that our candidates make this a priority.”
In hindsight, we could have had more and better discussions within local communities about the benefits of climate solutions, similar to the conversations about the Affordable Care Act that made it clear to voters how that policy directly affected them. “Those dots were not connected in a meaningful way.” A stronger economic message that focused on solutions, not problems, is needed to “give people something to vote for, not against.”
“The message we have to carry is this is how [climate change] impacts you and future generations. This is how to ensure a better future.”
What should we all do to try to protect the climate progress we have made in the past couple of years?
We need a message that’s not only more relevant, but more emphatic. As one panelist said, “Our voices need to be loud enough for people to hear, because people are still being left out. As you discuss [green] jobs, how will it reach us?”
The panelists called our current situation an “all-hands-on-deck moment.” What happens in the next four years could determine the fate of the planet for the next 1,000 years, so must act quickly to take advantage of the enormous opportunities this challenge presents. The rest of the world will continue moving toward a low-carbon future, and we need to make sure we’re part of that transformation.
Not only do we have to act fast – we also have to act on multiple fronts and continue to offer solutions where we can, whether it’s at the state or local level.
“We need to build alliances and expand the base. Everyone in the movement needs to find their comparative advantage and move forward.”
How can we galvanize the general public outside of environmental circles?
The panelists suggested reaching out through social media and inviting people to engage in climate conversations, but also taking advantage of the opportunity to “have a face-to-face conversation about things that we can do something about – like active transportation.” One speaker was especially encouraged “not only by the Millennials, but the Gen Xers who are beginning to raise questions about the legacies they will leave.”
How can we explain climate opportunities in a way that appeals to business?
What’s happened in the last four years “has turned the future around,” in the words of one panelist, who cited the remarkable recent wins in affordable clean energy, low-cost batteries, and electric vehicles. Now, the challenge is getting those technologies into marketplace as fast as possible. Said the panelist, “I urge people to go to the states and work with them – they get this.” We shouldn’t underestimate places like California that are setting trends for climate action.
Letter from American leaders to Donald Trump
A portion of the call was set aside to discuss an early draft of a letter to Donald Trump, insisting on a clean-energy future for America and urging the President-elect to heed scientific facts about climate change. The finalized statement, which was signed by nearly 100 American religious leaders, health and medical professionals, business executives, community leaders, and educators, appeared in USA TODAY on December 12. Learn more about the letter here. To read the declaration and add your voice, visit AmericansforClimateSolutions.com.
We’d like to thank everyone who attended and participated in the call – especially our panelists. We’re looking forward to further collaboration and positive action in 2017. For more information on our advocacy efforts, visit ecoamerica.org and follow us on Twitter.