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Fact Sheet: If You Want to Combat Climate Change, Vote Democratic

The world is sweltering. July 2023 was the hottest month on record worldwide. Phoenix endured 31 days in a row of temperatures over 110º F. Europe has warmed more quickly than the rest of the world in recent decades, and in late July places in eastern Spain, southern Italy, and Greece also saw temperatures over 110º. In the Middle East, at the Persian Gulf International Airport in Iran, the temperature reached 152º on a day in mid-July. This is at the limits of what human beings can tolerate.

It’s not just the air – the seas are heating up, too. On July 31, the average temperature of the sea surface worldwide reached its highest level ever. Parts of a major glacier in Greenland are melting much faster than expected. The amount of sea ice in Antarctica has shrunk to the lowest on record for two consecutive summers. Sea level rise resulting from climate change will eventually force migration of many of the forty percent of the world’s population who live within 65 miles of a coastline. Tampa and Miami are among the cities worldwide with the most assets vulnerable to rising waters.

On land wildfires are more numerous and more intense. On July 17, Washington, D.C.’s air quality was ranked third worst among the cities in the world because of smoke from huge forest fires thousands of miles away in western Canada. In early August, historic and deadly wildfires swept through parts of the Hawaiian Islands, driven in part by drought and hurricane-force winds fostered by climate change.

President Biden has recognized that climate change is an existential threat to human life. His Inflation Reduction Act has been called the most consequential environmental legislation in U.S. history. Among other goals it is intended to speed adoption of clean energy in the United States, both by modernizing existing energy infrastructure and by jump-starting innovation in new clean-energy technology. President Obama’s administration adopted regulations to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks, the first significant tightening of those standards in decades. On his first day in office, President Biden directed that the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, from which Trump had withdrawn. In part because of policies implemented by Democrats, in the first months of 2023 the U.S. for the first time produced more of its energy from renewable wind and solar processes than from burning coal.

Republicans prefer not to talk about climate change. While most Republicans now acknowledge that the world is getting warmer, they continue to support use of environmentally destructive fossil fuels while opposing corrective climate measures. They lie about the extent of climate change: Trump has frequently said that the sea level is rising by 1/8 of an inch every 300 years, while in fact it has risen 8-9 inches since 1880. They have made snide remarks about climate statistics, but do not address the problem those numbers illustrate.

Not one Republican Senator or Congressperson voted for the Inflation Reduction Act, although many are now touting its job-creation benefits. As for Republicans’ future plans, a conservative think tank has prepared a comprehensive proposal for a second Trump administration. It would block expansion of the electrical grid for wind- and solar-generated power, slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and pro-environment offices within the Department of Energy, and transfer authority over some environmental regulation from the federal government to more conservative state officials.

In office, Republicans have dismantled climate-friendly initiatives developed by earlier, Democratic administrations. Gov. Youngkin nominated Trump’s director of the EPA to head Virginia’s Department of Natural Resources. When Democrats in the state Senate blocked the nomination, Youngkin created a new state office and put the former coal lobbyist in charge. There he has assisted the governor’s efforts to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has successfully established incentives for large power generators to reduce their emissions. Virginia had joined the Initiative under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Similarly, Trump rolled back the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards that had been adopted under President Obama.

If we are to save the planet we must put people in charge of the government who are serious about halting climate change. Every seat in both houses of the Virginia Legislature is up before the voters this November. Currently Democrats are in control in the state Senate, but by a razor-thin margin. If they lose, there will be no constraint left on our anti-environment governor.

Knock on doors, make telephone calls, and write postcards in support of Democratic candidates throughout Virginia. Join Beyond Arlington, which is dedicated to this work. We must win both houses of Virginia’s legislature this fall.

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