State of Play: Bold Climate Action is Good Politics in Pennsylvania

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

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

Put simply: the politics of climate have changed.

This is clear as President Trump travels to Scranton in an attempt to distract from the final night of the Democratic National Convention and resuscitate his campaign as polls show him trailing Vice President Biden. 

During his campaign stop, Trump will likely hit on his favorite obsession: the Green New Deal and energy. This remains bad politics in Pennsylvania. The majority of Americans are worried about climate change and just as many want the president and Congress to do more to stop the crisis. Three-in-five Pennsylvanians are concerned about the climate crisis and want leaders to take bold action now. 

Pennsylvania is already living with the consequences of the climate crisis. 

  • As hurricanes grow stronger and more frequent, Pennsylvania is increasingly at risk. In the last decade, Pennsylvania was hit by Hurricane Sandy (2012) and Tropical Storm Lee (2011), which together caused a total of $77 billion in damages and 180 deaths.
  • Extreme heat is on the rise and thousands of Pennsylvanians are particularly at risk. Currently, more than 310,000 Pennsylvanians are especially vulnerable to extreme heat.
  • 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. 
    • Pennsylvania borders the largest coal ash waste site in the U.S. and a 2019 report found coal ash pollution was leaking into groundwater at nine power plants across the state.
  • Black, Latino, and other people of color in Philadelphia were more likely to live in the hottest neighborhoods of the city. They are also more prone to heat-related illnesses and death, and less likely to have air conditioning.  As a result, these residents — especially the elderly and those without air-conditioning — are more prone to heat-related illnesses and death.

The Trump administration has gutted safeguards that protect our air, water, and land and keep Pennsylvanians 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 war on clean energy cost the U.S. more than 1.1 million good-paying clean energy jobs, including nearly 19,000 in Pennsylvania.
  • 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 Pennsylvanians are concerned about the climate crisis and want leaders to take bold action now.  

  • The majority of Pennsylvanians 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 Pennsylvanians believe the President and Congress should do more to address climate change.
  • Latinos in  Pennsylvania want strong climate action and clean energy legislation.
  • Latinos want bold action in climate change. A 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.
  • 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 100 percent 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.