If You Care About Climate Change, Head to the Polls

Don't be deterred by a lack of political attention on climate change. Your vote can change that.

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While climate change may be at the top of your mind, the personal sense of urgency that (for many) accompanies a pending ecological crisis may not be reflected on the midterms ballot in your state.

In fact, Spectrum News evaluated 126 political television and online video ads leading up to this election, and only eight referenced climate change. That's about 6.3% of the political ads. Furthermore, even though Yale's Climate Opinion Map shows that in 2021 roughly 65% of Americans reported feeling worried about climate change, Brookings Institute reports that it was not a top issue discussed for either party during the 2022 congressional primaries.

But these dire statistics don't mean you should sit the 2022 midterms out. Rather, a lack of attention to climate change is the exact reason you should make sure to vote this year, according to Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder and director of the Environmental Voter Project.

"One of the dirty secrets about political campaigns and policy making is that whether you vote or not is public record. I can never look up who you vote for, that's secret, but whether you vote or not, that's public record," Stinnett explained to Thrillist in a phone call. "And so if I'm running a campaign, all I need to do is open up my laptop and see who has a history of voting in this election I'm trying to win and who usually skips it. Well, who do you think I'm going to pay attention to?"

Why Showing Up Still Matters

So while your actual vote—who you are voting to elect, which ballot measures you support—is significant in the fight to slow the destruction of our planet's climate, it's not the only impact of casting your ballot.

"I'm going to only poll the people who regularly vote and I'm going to respond to their priorities and try to get them to like me," Stinnett continued. "I'm going to ignore all the folks who don't vote. And so that in a nutshell is why it's so extraordinarily important for people who care deeply about climate to vote."

That's not to say there aren't candidates campaigning to address climate change. It just means there's not a lot of incentive for politicians to make it part of their central platform. The natural response to that reality is, "What more encouragement could be needed beyond the potential destruction of civilization and Earth itself?" Remember, this is America. Even the correct choices need to be incentivized.

The objective for Stinnett and EVP is to mobilize people who aren't voting but do care about the environment to head to the polls and be vocal about their intentions. Declare that you are voting because you care about climate change, and do it at every election you can. Since 2015, EVP has contacted 8,658,171 non-voters and seldom-voters, and 1,030,912 of those people have become super-voters, casting a ballot in every election.

"Part of the reason it's so important for people who care deeply about climate change to show up and vote is because politicians don't care what non-voters think," Stinnett said.

It becomes hard to avoid the question that plagues me every election. If we have to beg leaders to do something about climate change, elect people who promise action on climate change, and still nothing changes, what is the point of voting?

"Nothing motivates a politician more than the prospect of winning or losing an election. And yeah, there's something deeply frustrating and cynical about that," said Stinnett. "But at its core, that shouldn't make you feel like your vote doesn't matter. That should make you feel like your vote is the only thing that matters."

How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts

Okay, so you've decided to head to the polls. Now what? First, make sure you are registered and know your polling location. Then tell your friends and family why you choose to vote and get vocal on social media about what inspires you to cast a ballot. You care about climate change! Wear a shirt, post on social media, and inform your local representatives.

If you aren't sure which candidates in your area are the best option when it comes to climate change, you can check out the Sierra Club's list of candidate endorsements nationwide. You can also find your local Sierra Club chapter to get more information about individual candidates, ballot measures, and other local actions in your area. Greenpeace has also identified the country's most pivotal races regarding climate change, with a scorecard for candidates in California, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Once you've done your homework on candidates' records on climate, Stinnett says, the bottom line remains: You gotta get to the polls this election and every election.

"If you stay on the sidelines, we'll just keep the status quo. If you stay on the sidelines, the fossil fuel industry, people who are trying to further subsidize and further prop up this industry that poisons our air in our water and our climate, they are going to win," Stinnett said. "We can't just think about moving the needle on the federal level. You know, elections don't just happen once every two years. There are lots of state and local elections where really important things can get done."

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.