What’s the single most important thing you can do to fight climate change? Trading in your car for a bicycle is laudable. Getting a TerraPass for your home energy use is nice. These actions make a difference, and in aggregate they help to move the needle.
But if you want to make a difference, you gotta get to the ballot box on November 7.
Why is voting so important? Isn’t TerraPass a market-based mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Haven’t we written before about businesses leading the way in the fight against climate change? Aren’t the technological and economic barriers to clean energy steadily being overcome?
Yes, yes, and yes. Businesses and individuals can show leadership, but ultimately we need leadership from our government as well. The scope of the climate change problem demands coordination on a huge scale. Global warming is a vast puzzle that cuts across borders and topics ranging from energy infrastructure, urban planning, land use, agricultural policy, transportation, and the list goes on.
I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. Nor am I going to suggest that climate change is the only important issue the world faces. I will say, though, that in five years’ time many of the pressing issues of this electoral cycle will already be fading memories. And in fifty years’ time, few of today’s issues will be anything more than historical footnotes.
The same can not be said for global warming. Scientists tell us that we’ve already committed to a degree of change that will be working its way through our climate system for many decades to come. The CO2 we’ve accumulated today is enough to guarantee a steady rise in temperatures through the middle of this century. If there is any issue our descendants (and, well, our future selves) will judge us on, it is this one.
Let your candidates know that this an issue that matters to you. If you live in a district with a safe seat (and these days, most people do), consider making a donation to a candidate in a tight race who shares your views on the environment. You can also make a donation of time to a campaign, which in some ways is the most gratifying way to get involved in one of our most important civic processes.
Update: A commenter points out that it’s just as important to actually let your elected officials know that climate change is an issue you care about. A vote can be interpreted many ways, but a direct communication over this issue sends a clear message. Call, write or email — just remember to be courteous and well-reasoned (passionate never hurts either).