Changing The Future

Young Americans are taking notice and taking action on climate change

Young Americans Are Taking Notice And Taking Action On Climate Change

Young Americans are shaping up to be a sizable force in this election: they make up one-third of potential eligible voters in 2016, surpassing the size and potential political influence of Baby Boomers, and are becoming increasingly active in politics and policy. Across the country, candidates, political organizations, and political experts are paying close attention to this key demographic and to the issues they care about most—including climate change and clean energy.

Today, Generation Progress Action and NextGen Climate held a conversation with Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania; Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island; Tom Steyer, the Founder of NextGen Climate; and Lucia Hennelly of the Environmental Defense Fund. To see the conversation, check on this video and check out @GPPushback on Twitter for tweets about the event.

As Neera Tanden said when introducing today’s panel, “climate change is one of the most existential threats of our generation.” 2015 was the warmest year on record, with the Arctic melting at a shocking rate. Climate impacts all Americans and is especially important to youth voters. Overwhelmingly, young Americans want candidates who offer concrete plans to tackle climate change and accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy. Millions of young people across the country are already making their voices heard—organizing campus campaigns, building a diverse coalition of student leaders, and letting politicians know where they stand. Young voters are passionate about climate because they care about their lives and their futures—and they are likely going to vote for candidates who care about climate as well. As panelist Lucia Hennelly said, young Americans are “not waiting for folks to believe the science… young people are going to be the demographic to capture this election.”

Many elected officials are already taking notice—particularly at the state level, where governors are leading the way on clean energy to grow their economies, create jobs, and help protect the future climate. As Gov. Wolf said on today’s panel, “This is a practical issue. If you’re going to be alive for another 50-60 years, this is going to impact you.” Overall, building a clean energy economy is politically popular and will create millions of jobs across the country, thereby creating economic opportunity for young Americans. In fact, 70 percent of Americans want their state to comply with the Clean Power Plan.

BOTTOM LINE: Climate change is an increasingly important issue to young voters, a demographic that will have a huge impact in the 2016 election. Young voters are not going to stand for climate denial or inaction on climate change. As Tom Steyer of NextGen Climate says, “Young people don’t want to hear that something can’t be done.” It’s clear that our leaders will have to embrace clean energy if they want to engage young people in the political conversation. If young Americans make their voices heard in this election and hold elected officials accountable, they can help the climate and change the future.

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