Which state legislators in the United States have the highest records on climate-change policy?
Even as US presidents set the tone for the US's climate change strategy, much of the action occurs in the states. What are these politicians doing to helpor to stopclimate policy?
The average American isn't paying much attention. According to a study by John Hopkins University, less than 20% of US citizens can name their state legislators, while one-third don't know their governor. But state senators and representatives are often the ones making decisions on land use, extractive industries, energy efficiency, and other topics with the most immediate impact on people's quality of life.
While opinion polls consistently show a majority of Americans believe climate change is obstructing societal action and demand additional government action, most people remain focused on the federal government.
The political advocacy organization Climate Cabinet Action is targeting that disconnect. Caroline Spears, executive director of Climate Cabinet Action, stated, "The American public is on board with climate action and clean energy." But there is a disconnect between the way state legislators vote and how people they represent actually feel.
Climate Cabinet Action has set out to study state political leaders' climate views over the last six years to bring this to light. It evaluated more than 3,300 state legislators in 25 states representing more over 50% of the US population on everything from renewable energy sources to the rules for pipeline protests. It then rounded up state politicians between 0 and 100, depending on their climate action.
The organization hopes that local advocacy groups and voters concerned about climate change may use these information (now available in one place for the first time) to hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box if they are armed with their representatives voting records. What this tool does is show who in each state is driving climate change policies, and who is making those actions impossible, says Spears.
How state politicians measure up on climate action how they measure in how politicians act.
This study confirmed that partisanship is a key element of policy for everyone who is blindly familiar with today's politics. Democratic legislators were far more likely to endorse climate initiatives than Republicans, according to Climate Cabinet Action, and they were much more apt to oppose them. The difference between Democrats and Republicans was significant: the average Democratic score was 91, and the typical Republican was 27.
335 Republican legislators received a zero score at the extremes, with 699 politicians scoring of 100, almost all of which are Democrats, except for two Republicans and three independents. Connecticut had the most climate-friendly legislators (85% of its legislator scored 75 or above), while West Virginia had only the least (just 11% with scores at or below 75).
Spears pointed out that this tool evalues legislators' decisions on the bills that have been submitted to them, but no two policy proposals are the samethe level of ambition in pro-climate policy can vary from state to state. Earning a fantastic score on the index doesn't guarantee that an individual legislator is tainted by achieving if you're promoting climate change. According to Spears, the strength of the votes that make it to the table limits [a person's] score, as a result of fewer votes. Really no state is doing enough on this issue right now, but what we can do is contextualize and point out ways that states can learn from one another and improve.
Polarization leads to paralysis, which leads in polarization.
Which party controlled the government was the primary indicator of whether a pro-climate strategy would be adopted. Swift climate action was more likely to happen when one party was under control of the entire state government, as in Virginia, in Swift, like in the United States. In a year, lawmakers passed legislation establishing the state's first clean energy standard, created an electric vehicle program, and joined statewide initiative to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, all within ten percent of the legislature and the governorship, after Democrats gained control of both parties of parliament and their governorhood in d'une 2019 election.
By contrast, ambitious climate policy stalled in highly polarized state legislatures where power was split. Two climate-focused bill amendments passed this years legislative session this week, and fail along party lines in the state Senate this winter (one to reduce carbon emissions from electric utilities, another for environmental justice effort for disenfranchised communities). Following three years of negotiations and debate, a climate-related legislation was an energy conservation bill, which was one that passed.
There were some of the issues when bipartisan consensus brought significant changes. Senators' climate voting records were less riven by party loyalties in South Carolina, according to legislators. State politicians in the Palmetto State received an average score of 73 (few scored below 50). The state House banned offshore drilling in 2019 (the measure was later extended), and the state passed the Energy Freedom Act, which opened up opportunities for more widespread solar energy adoption, including community solar options.
Spears, on the other hand, claims that the climate efforts were facilitated by a distinct set of circumstances rather than partisan reorganization. The offshore drilling ban was supported by legislators across the state that sought to protect the country's beaches and tourism industry. South Carolina, which lacks a local oil and gas industry, had fewer lobbyists controlling legislators as well.
Tests whether transparency leads to accountability, as well as whether or not it is transparent.
If knowledge of elected officials' voting records is subject to pressure at the ballot box, the next test will be if the knowledge applied to the voting record is applied. Voters concerned about climate change will now have clear-cut statistics about who votes for their priorities.
Many people concerned about climate change do not participate in local political activities like campaigning or phone banking so far because they don't see how important state elected officials are to enacting climate policy, according to Eliza Nemser, co-founder of Climate Changemakers, an advocacy group.
Nemser sees a tool like this as if it's the method to assist voters in overcoming the deeply rooted partisanship in American politics by defining which politician'' s recordnot campaign promises or stump speechesis aligned with their own priorities. And American voters are more than their representatives in terms of climate change than they are. In a recent poll, 63 percent of Americans were concerned about climate change, and more than half of them wanted government officials to do more to take action.
It's possible to do all of this political work in a climate lens rather than partisan, Nemser adds. In every general election that boils down to two candidates, you'll have a choice between ominous climate champion and someone else who isn't. There's a very clear-cut candidate to advocate for, and you're often blind to party affiliation.