The climate is on the ballot in six states

The climate is on the ballot in six states
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From the Cascades of Washington to the coast of Florida, the country is witnessing a wave of state ballot initiatives to advance policies that combat climate change. In response to a climate-denying federal administration, grassroots coalitions are mobilizing to defeat fossil fuel interests and protect our country from the ravages of climate change, one state at a time. Climate is on the ballot in Washington, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Arizona.

In Washington state, voters have the opportunity to pass Initiative 1631, the first statewide fee on carbon pollution. Coloradans have rallied behind Proposition 112, an initiative to add environmental safeguards for fracking.

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Both states have been flooded with historic levels of corporate spending, with the fossil fuel industry spending a combined $60 million to protect its profits. In Washington alone, the $31 million spent to defeat the climate policy on the ballot originates solely from 77 fossil fuel companies, including oil giants Phillips 66 and BP. Around the country, volunteers have knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors in a grassroots strategy to stand up to the flood of fossil fuel industry spending. 

In Nevada, many voters who have consistently supported Republicans have rallied behind Question 6, a ballot initiative that would require utilities to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030, a bold but feasible task.

Arizona follows close behind with a ballot measure of their own, Proposition 127, which would require a similar increase in the state’s renewable energy goals. The state’s investor owned utility, which relies heavily on coal, has spent nearly $30 million to oppose the measure. 

In Florida, a ballot initiative, Amendment 9, aims to ban oil drilling in nearshore waters. Passage of the amendment would send a clear signal to the Trump administration that Floridians oppose expanded drilling. 

Currently, coastal communities face the risk of sea rise that would drive thousands from their homes. “Floridians might be spread across the political spectrum, but there’s at least one thing most people agree on: it’s not in Florida’s interest to jeopardize the beauty of our coasts with dirty and dangerous oil drilling,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida. Early and absentee voting by young people under 30 has increased by 131 percent from 2014 in Florida. 

These climate initiatives stand as a sharp rebuke to the Trump administration’s rejection of scientific consensus and deliberate undermining of progress to address climate change. 

Climate initiatives have risen as a unifier, bringing together disparate groups who are called to act in the face of climate change.  Democrats in Washington who are championing a carbon fee find an unlikely ally in Florida Republicans working to protect their coasts, and Arizonans and Nevadans from both parties recognize that renewable energy has the potential to green their state and generate countless high-paying jobs to fuel their economies.

A fractured country is coming together for meaningful climate action. Some are asking if this surge of grassroots support can stand against the millions of dollars spent by a fossil fuel industry that aims to maintain the status quo when voters head to the polls. Whatever the answer to that question yields on Tuesday, the grassroots coalitions that have spearheaded these efforts show no signs of slowing down. Climate action is coming.

Jake Kornack is a member of the board of directors of Our Climate and is an associate at Newground Social Investment.