By May Boeve, 350 Action executive director

Next week the U.S. midterm elections are happening. This is a hugely important moment in the fight for climate justice. Inexplicably, most pundits are still ignoring the importance of climate change as a policy and economic issue. Voters, however, are not. 

It is deeply ironic, and disturbing, that the Republicans are campaigning on the state of the economy while ignoring the devastating economic cost of climate disasters. In 2022 alone, damage from climate disasters, including September’s Hurricanes Fiona and Ian, have exceeded $100 billion in damages. Meanwhile, wildfires have left some areas of the West Coast with some of the worst air quality in the world.

At 350 Action, we’re reminding voters of the bigger picture: we have three years to right the ship to avoid a point of no return on climate. If Republicans take control of the House and other key gubernatorial and state house positions, we’re looking at a point of no return. 

Just two months ago, Congress passed the largest piece of climate legislation in U.S. history – and not a single Republican voted for it. The IRA has $369 billion slated for investment in the energy transition. It offers tax incentives for cities and states to invest in renewable energy, consumer tax credits for electric vehicles, and other benefits for homeowners to switch from fossil gas to electric heating. 

The outcome of the midterm elections will greatly impact our ability to ensure that the IRA  is properly  implemented. This is why we need climate leaders in every level of office from the U.S. Senate and House, to the Governor’s office, to state level government. Implementation is about organizing, power building, and community control of the benefits. We have the opportunity to center climate justice and ensure this is driven by impacted communities, as they build economic, electoral, and political power.

For example, the IRA requires States to opt-in to obtain its benefits. If they don’t  they cannot access the financial support on offer. Without leaders who are serious about climate action at the state level, there is significant risk that the benefits offered by the IRA will be lost, further stifling our much needed just transition to a renewable energy economy. 

More than half of voters say climate change is one of the most important issues in their voting considerations. As Republicans work to wrest control of the House and Senate from Democrats, the results are divided along party lines. Among adults, roughly 8 in 10 Democrats (79 percent) say climate change is at least very important in their vote, compared with 46 percent of independents and 27 percent of Republicans. Climate-focused voters could be the key in many races around the country. 

We’re talking to thousands of voters in targeted races, any one of which could come down to a handful of votes. Some examples of important races include Senate seats like those of Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mandela Barnes (D-WI), and John Fetterman (D-PA) who will be essential to ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels to renewables. At the State level, re-electing Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s governor will be critical to the state’s long term efforts to transition to a renewable economy and maximize benefits from the IRA. In New Hampshire, down ballot races are key to the transitioning away from coal and gas. 

The midterm elections will also affect how the U.S. follows through on climate cooperation, real climate solutions, and adaptation. The midterms come during the first week of r the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP 27). President Biden is attending, and the U.S. will be leading negotiations of Loss & Damage reparations and meaningful plans needed to address climate impacts which cannot be avoided by adaptation and mitigation. As the clock ticks on climate disaster, there is not a second left to waste. 350 Action is prioritizing the midterms because our window for meaningful climate action and implementation is closing. Achieving social and economic transformation means we need to see elected officials at all levels committed to do everything it takes to protect people, our democracy, our planet, and to grow opportunity and justice for all. It’s important that on the national and state level we demonstrate what is possible when we transition to renewables including hundreds of thousands of jobs created to build clean and efficient infrastructure. This is a critical moment to ensure the rights and wellbeing of our communities to a brighter future.