State of Play: Bold Climate Action is Good Politics in North Carolina

TO:             Interested Parties
FROM:      Lori Lodes, Climate Power 2020
RE:             State of Play: Bold Climate Action is Good Politics in
                    North Carolina

North Carolinians are already living with the dangerous consequences of the climate crisis and many voters in North Carolina are strongly motivated by the climate issue, and in an election that will be decided by narrow margins, bold climate action is smart politics.

This was clear as the climate crisis and the need for bold action took center stage at the Democratic National Convention last night with more than 20 people raising the topic during primetime. Tonight, the program will even further elevate climate with a conversation among youth climate activists and a segment exploring Biden’s clean energy plan.

North Carolina is already living with the consequences of the climate crisis. 

  • Extreme heat is on the rise in North Carolina. The state currently averages 10 extreme heat days each year – that number is projected to jump to almost 60 days by 2050.
    • This will make North Carolinians even sicker. In 2018, North Carolina recorded 4,593 emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses.
  • Trump’s close relationship with the coal industry has resulted in looser rules for dumping toxic coal ash, which contains chemicals linked to cancer, neurological damage, and other health issues. 
    • In 2014, 50,000 tons of coal ash from a Duke Energy facility spilled into the Dan River and in 2018, Hurricane Florence compromised two Duke Energy facilities. The company, in 2020, finally agreed to clean up nearly 80 million tons of coal ash.
  • Latino workers are more at risk of heat-related illnesses. Latino workers are often engaged in strenuous outdoor jobs and are therefore exposed to excess heat. In North Carolina, more than 57 percent of emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses between 2007 and 2012 occurred in rural areas, with higher incidences associated with more hours of agricultural labor.

The Trump administration has gutted safeguards that protect our air, water, and land and keep North Carolinians safe.

  • Trump’s anti-climate agenda killed more than a million jobs as the economy was reeling from his mishandling of the COVID crisis. Trump’s failed COVID response and the war on clean energy cost the U.S. more than 1.1 million good-paying clean energy jobs, including over 21,000 in North Carolina.
  • Trump silenced communities of color by slashing a bedrock environmental law that gave them a say in protecting their neighborhoods from pollution. Trump gutted the National Environmental Policy Act, which guaranteed communities had a say before pipelines and other polluting projects were built in their neighborhoods.
  • Trump cut clean air protections during the pandemic, when pollution-related illnesses exacerbate the severity of the illness. Trump signed an executive order weakening the Clean Air Act and limiting future pollution controls in June.
  • While green lighting pollution that accelerates climate change, Trump also gutted our emergency preparedness capabilities. Trump recently raided $44 billion from disaster relief funding during the pandemic, yet another blow to FEMA. Trump also slashed half FEMA’s budget by half in just one year, cutting it from $12.3 billion in 2018 to $5.3 billion in 2019.

The majority of North Carolinians are concerned about the climate crisis and want leaders to take bold action now.  

  • The majority of North Carolinians believe leaders at every level of government should be doing more to address the climate crisis. According to research by Yale University, 60 percent of North Carolinians believe the President and Congress should do more to address climate change.
  • Voters want climate action to be a priority. A recent poll from Data for Progress shows 62 percent of voters in North Carolina and other key battleground states believe that climate change should be a priority, with a plurality of 41 percent saying it should be a Day 1 priority.
  • Black and Latino voters want bold action in climate change. A poll conducted by Climate Power 2020 found that 93% of both African American and Latino respondents agree that“We should make significant investments in clean energy as part of our efforts to rebuild the economy.”  Another poll conducted by Climate Power 2020 found that an overwhelming 77 percent of Latino voters support a message of bold climate action to fight the climate crisis. This message also boosts Vice President Biden’s margin of victory with Latinos by 4 points.
  • Latinos support candidates that believe in climate action. In a poll, Latinos in North Carolina said that they would give much more support to a candidate that reduces air pollution, and focuses on clean energy.
  • Latinos want clean energy. Seventy-seven percent of Latinos in North Carolina think it’s very or extremely important that the President and Congress take action to increase the use of clean energy.
  • Calling out Trump’s failed climate record turns key demographics of voters against Trump and increases their likelihood of voting. Critiquing Trump’s record on climate increases his disapproval among GOP-leaning persuadable voters, and increases motivation to vote by younger voters by 12 percentage points and Hispanic voters by 9 percentage points, according to a March 2020 poll from Climate Power 2020.
  • Nearly 3 in 4 voters want to eliminate fossil fuels in favor of a clean economy. According to a June 2020 Yale, Climate Nexus, and George Mason poll, more than 70 percent of voters support legislation to achieve a 100percent clean economy by eliminating fossil fuels.
  • Voters, even moderate Republicans, are far less likely to vote for presidential candidates who oppose climate action. An April Yale Program on Climate Change Communication survey found that voters are 55 percent less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who opposes taking action on climate – liberal/moderate Republicans are 35 percentage points less likely to vote for a candidate opposing action.