President Biden left COP26 having delivered a positive message: “climate change is an opportunity to create a clean, more resilient economy,” he said, “and millions of good-paying jobs and opportunities around the world – cleaner air for our children, more bountiful oceans, healthier forests, and ecosystems for our planet.” Yet, back home, his party’s performance in recent elections has been far less positive.
The Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia lost his race and the incumbent Democratic Governor of New Jersey underperformed, squeaking by to win re-election. Off-year elections like Virginia and New Jersey take on heightened significance as an early assessment of the President’s performance and policy agenda.
After this week’s elections, moderate and centrist legislators worrying about their re-election should understand that consistent polling shows the majority of Americans believe climate change is a major threat and want their government to act. Now is not the time to back off.
“Climate change is a national security crisis, especially in communities like mine that see flooding and hurricanes battering our coastal homes. We need to treat it with severe urgency.”– US Congressman Andy Kim
The American public is supportive of government climate action and clean energy production. Polling from Yale University shows that 61 percent of Americans think that climate change will harm Americans. Moreover, 56 percent believe it is already harming people or will in the next ten years. Fires, floods, droughts, and heatwaves hit the United States hard and will get worse. These storms and disasters do not discriminate based on political persuasion. Nationwide, Yale polling data shows that 60 percent of Americans think the President and Congress should do more to address climate change.
The 50/50 split in the Senate and slim Democratic House majority means that 2022 will be a decisive election. We took a more granular look at Yale’s polling data to see if national climate attitudes mirror competitive congressional districts. The graph below shows select battleground districts in 2022 and the percentage of the electorate that thinks Congress should act to address global warming.
“Climate change is a national security crisis, especially in communities like mine that see flooding and hurricanes battering our coastal homes. We need to treat it with severe urgency,” said Congressman Andy Kim. “I will continue working to maximize America’s investments in combating climate change to provide a better future for my kids, your kids and grandkids, and future generations.”
Moderate election candidates hesitant to support the Build Back Better agenda should understand that, even in battleground districts, Americans desire climate action. In addition, building a modern, prosperous economy that creates jobs and invests in the middle class requires forward-thinking investments. The proposed bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget reconciliation bills include substantial investments in clean energy technology, power systems, and supply chains. These are all critical elements of restoring US competitiveness, especially vis-a-vis China, and tackling the climate crisis.
With the 2022 midterms around the corner, Members of Congress should seize the opportunity President Biden spoke of in Glasgow and produce results consistent with the desires of American voters.
Notably, the majority of West Virginians and Arizonans believe Congress should be doing more to address climate change. However, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to express scepticism over the reform packages and have painstakingly prolonged negotiations. With the 2022 midterms around the corner, Members of Congress should seize the opportunity President Biden spoke of in Glasgow and produce results consistent with the desires of American voters.
It is unlikely that Democrats will have trifecta control of the U.S. government for some time following 2022. They should not waste this opportunity to pass bold climate legislation, boost the American economy, and demonstrate climate leadership.