Analysis | For Gen Z voters, combating climate change is top of mind – The Washington Post

by | Oct 31, 2022 | Climate Change

Comment on this storyCommentGift ArticleGood morning! Your Climate 202 researcher, Vanessa Montalbano, wrote today’s newsletter. Today we’re wondering what your favorite climate and environment inspired Halloween costumes are 🌎 👻. Send any tips and tricks to vanessa.montalbano@washpost.com. But first:For Gen Z voters, combating climate change is top of mindShaped by frequent flooding, extreme heat waves and increasingly destructive hurricanes, Generation Z is serious about taking bold action to tackle climate change. And, they are aiming to fight for it when they make their way to the polls next week.“As time moves on every single moment becomes more and more of a critical point for climate action,” said Iris Zhan, an 18-year-old from Maryland who is voting for the first time this November and considers climate a top priority. “That’s where the politics and the legislation need to be to make a difference.” AdvertisementIn 2020, the most recent presidential election-year, 53 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds cast a ballot, a nine percentage point jump from 2016.At that time, youth-led environmental organizations such as the Sunrise Movement mobilized millions of people to vote in record numbers, with organizers as young as 12 and 13 making countless phone calls to talk to community members about what’s at stake and registering eligible peers to vote.Now, in 2022, Ezra Oliff-Lieberman, who leads Sunrise’s electoral organizing arm, said that young people are still feeling that fire.“I feel a lot of hope. Hope, hopefully, that things will pay off and we’ll be able to win some things in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “But more importantly, hope that in the long-term young people will continue to fight and put power in our communities.” The midterm elections on Nov. 8 are set to determine if young climate activists will be able to continue to throw their political weight around at a time when control of Congress is up for grabs and a majority of the top youth issues are on the ballot, including climate change, abortion, gun control and LGBTQ rights.Advertisement“If we think about what’s coming with the climate movement, when we see, you know, the young people who are protesting, who are getting trained in civil disobedience … that’s happening as the planet warms up and we experience substantial climate shocks,” said Dana Fisher, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland who studies protest movements. “So I think what we’re going to see is that come together to push for social change.”Not just liberal young votersBenji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative climate advocacy group geared toward young people, said he is also seeing a lot of energy and momentum around the midterms this year, especially among young Republicans, adding that although Democrats have largely taken the lead on pro-environment policy, climate change’s wrath doesn’t care about political parties.AdvertisementBacker said that as the generations shift, the question for political campaigns will no longer be whether they accept the science that the world is warming but rather a question of what is the best solution to address the rapidly changing climate.“If you deny climate change, and, or if you don’t have a plan for climate change … you won’t have an opportunity to win young voters,” he said. “Those sorts of candidates will never win again at the level that they have in the past.”Fisher agreed, saying that as they grow older, and become eligible both to vote and to run their own campaigns, Gen Z has the potential to change part of the political landscape.“The people who are in office, when they run for reelection, they’re either going to have to change their opinions to reflect more of the voters or they’re going to get voted out,” she said.But… It’s ‘hard to mobilize’Despite widespread care for the environment, climate activists say it’s hard to get young people to vote when they’ve already faced so much disappointment on other issues this year.Advertisement“Gen Z overall really pushes for gun safety, climate change, the right to choose. And, that’s all kind of backfired,” said Kate Fraser, a 17-year-old from Florida who is not old enough to vote during this election cycle but has been working to register hun …

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