Climate Anxiety is Motivating Latinos to Demand Bold Action on Climate Change in 2020

Washington D.C. — Last night, Latino activists and leaders detailed how anxiety over the climate crisis and its health, economic, and mental impacts is motivating Latinos to prioritize climate as an issue driving their participation in the November elections, in a virtual town hall hosted by Climate Power 2020, Latino Rebels, and Fuse.

The event featured Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of Latino Rebels, and Cristela Alonzo, a comedian, actress, and producer, as moderators and Jamie Margolin, co-founder of Zero Hour, Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, and Teresa Leger Fernandez, the Democratic Nominee for New Mexico’s Third Congressional District, as panelists.

With 32 million individuals eligible to vote this year, Latinos will be the second-largest voting bloc in the election after non-Hispanic whites, marking the first time Latinos will be the largest minority group making up the American electorate.

And it’s a voting bloc that holds opportunities for both Biden and Trump. Recent polls suggest Biden is trailing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers among Latino voters by double-digits. A Quinnipiac University poll this month gave Biden a 20-point advantage among Latinos. Clinton won the Latino vote by close to 40 points.

We know the Trump campaign — evidenced by their frequent Latino roundtables and focus on states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida— believes they have the ability to win over Latinos come November.

But President Trump’s climate denial and anti-environmental policies are yet another vulnerability for him with Latino voters. And that presents a large opportunity for Biden to embrace a bold, intersectional climate message in the final months of the campaign. There is no other voting bloc in the United States that so consistently says that climate change and the environment is not only a top-tier issue but also motivates their decision to vote and for whom. This holds true across the United States and among the country’s diverse Latino communities. Younger Latinos are especially motivated by climate change action and messaging.

According to Yale Climate Change Communication’s research, Latinos are much more convinced global warming is happening and human-caused, more worried about it, and are more willing to get involved politically. Moreover, a recent Climate Power 2020 poll shows that Latinos are more likely to vote for someone who has a plan to take bold action. And an overwhelming 77% of Latino voters support a strong message of action to combat the climate crisis.

Here are a few takeaways from the event:

  • “I had been seeing the orange skies in California, forests burning and I get so discouraged, it gives me climate anxiety,” said Margolin.
  • Leger Fernandez told the story of a 12-year-old who spoke at an event in New Mexico,” says the young woman asked why the government hasn’t “protected us,” and wanted to know why her future was jeopardized because of inaction from leaders.
  • Leger Fernandez also discussed how the climate crisis is interconnected and impacts every “aspect of our lives.” 
    • “When we love somebody we do everything we can” she added, referring to the need to take action for climate change now.
  • “What people don’t get is that the legacy of climate change is the legacy of decades of capitalism, colonialism, slavery. Race is at the center of every conversation about climate change in this country,” said Yeampierre.
  • “The way we treat the process is just as important as the outcome”, explained Yeampierre referring to a green economy. “When communities of color talk about a Green New Deal, we talk about a frontline Green New Deal and we talk about how that comes from the language of just transition.”
  • Margolin agreed, saying that “much of the damage is already done so we need to also make our economies climate-resilient.” She also emphasized that “100 [fossil fuel] companies produced 71% of all carbon emissions.”

Full video will be available on Latino Rebels’ YouTube channel later today.