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It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. There are, of course, many reasons to vote. But as wildfires engulf the West Coast, heat waves and hurricanes devastate entire regions, and rising sea levels threaten cities like Miami, an increasing number of voters are saying climate change is what’s driving them to cast their ballot — and in some cases, even influencing who they support.“Climate change voters” aren’t yet a reliable voting bloc the way gun-loving NRA voters are for the Republican Party, Alec Tyson of the Pew Research Center told Quartz. But they’re quickly becoming one. In the past few years, more people have started to identify themselves as such, and naming climate change as the primary issue that is motivating them to vote. “I think that in 2020, this will be the first election where you’re going to see climate come up like healthcare, national security, jobs, and economic security, as a reason people vote and a reason people engage in this election,” Lauren French, senior communications director at Climate Power 2020, told Refinery29.In fact, climate change is the single most important issue among Democrats during this election cycle, edging out concerns over healthcare and the economy, according to a recently released NPR survey. (For Republicans, it doesn’t even rank as one of their top six concerns.)Between 2014 and 2019, the number of Americans who are worried about climate change nearly tripled, reports the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. A recent poll conducted by VICE Media Group and several partners found that 78% of voters support retraining former fossil fuel workers into renewable energy jobs, to help rebuild the economy after COVID. And 65% of voters say they want to see Congress and the next president draft a serious and comprehensive bill addressing how the U.S. plans to fight climate change as soon as next year. Despite the fact that it’s top of mind for voters, climate change is chronically under-discussed in the media and political debates. “The last time a climate question was asked [during a presidential or vice presidential debate] was in 2008, which seems to be fake, but it’s just an absurd amount of time,” French said. The Commission on Presidential Debates recently announced which topics President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden will cover in the upcoming debate on September 29, and — once again — climate change is not on the roster. Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement, said it is an “abdication of the media’s role to keep people informed for climate to be completely erased from the docket.”French said the September 29 roster surprised her, given the push among voters for politicians to talk about the issue during debates. “I recognize that Chris Wallace works for Fox, I’m a pretty pragmatic and realistic human being, but [during the debates, he’s been chosen to] ask on behalf of all American voters, not just the audience that watches Fox News,” she said. “So he has a greater responsibility than to appease folks who watch Fox and don’t want to believe that the climate crisis is here.” Asked about the debate topic, Biden deputy national press secretary Matt Hill said, “Regardless of what’s happening in the news or on the debate stage, Vice President Biden will continue treating the climate crisis as a front-and-center issue, as he has been throughout the entire campaign.”Unfortunately, views on climate change — like wearing masks during the pandemic, another life-or-death issue — tend to be divided among party lines. Pew Research Center found that 88% of Democrats consider climate change a major threat, compared to only 31% of Republicans. 78% of Democrats think dealing with global climate change should be a “top priority” this year (up from 46% in 2015), while only 21% of Republicans agree.This election season, climate change voters are unequivocal about getting rid of Trump — who has withdrawn from the Paris Climate agreement, consistently scaled back environmental protections, expanded Arctic drilling, and denied that climate change even exists. Joe Biden, to them, presents the best hope for the future. After engaging with communities, including environmental organizations, environmental justice advocates, and labor unions, his campaign has developed an aggressive plan to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 with a broad investment in jobs and infrastructure. This includes $2 trillion for clean energy projects, as well as a promise to direct 40% of its climate spending to marginalized communities. “The fact that you have the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the United Auto Workers, IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), and a swath of environmental justice leaders all coming out in support of the same climate plan is unprecedented and speaks to Joe Biden’s ability to bring together all kinds of leaders who we need to be engaging on this issue,” said Hill.Trump’s embrace of fossil fuels and climate denial — he recently dismissively said that it will “start getting cooler” in reference to the West Coast wildfires — have even pushed a considerable number of climate voters to the Democratic party, French said. David Jeffrey Arnot, 22, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he changed his registration after seeing “an increasingly worrying denial of science from the Republican party.” According to an April survey by Climate Power 2020, 62% of Republican-leaning “persuadable voters” disapprove of Trump’s handling of climate and 72% think that strong climate action will be good for the economy. The other major “climate voter” group are “Bernie voters” who are not necessarily sold on Biden, but who are so passionate about stepping up on climate action that they will vote for him, since of the current candidates, he is the only one with solutions to the issue, French said. Then, there are the Democrats who would likely vote for Biden otherwise, and also consider climate change their number-one issue. Another Climate Power 2020 survey shows that Latinx voters are particularly engaged on climate change: 77% of Latinx voters favor bold government action on climate change, 71% of voters overall support it. Women, millennials, people of color, and those earning under $50,000 a year are all more likely to list this issue as top priority in elections, according to the Environmental Voter Project. This may be because climate change affects these populations more significantly and directly: Reports say climate change will take a disproportionate toll on low-income communities, for instance, as they already have higher rates of adverse health conditions, are more exposed to environmental hazards, and take longer to bounce back from natural disasters. For many climate change voters, their personal experience has helped inform their attitudes. Ivette Alsina, 49, who lives in Winter Haven, FL, fled from Cayey, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria; scientists say climate change was behind the hurricane’s deadly rainfall. Alsina said she had to leave behind a lot of family and friends. “We need to start paying attention to what is happening, because it’s not only happening in Puerto Rico, but around the world,” she said.Alejandra Cadiz, 53, in Grayson, GA, says the heatwaves in Georgia have gotten unbearable — she hasn’t experienced anything like it since she moved there in 1996. “Without taking care of this problem, we are not going to be here in 50 more years, we are not going to live on this planet. So nothing else will matter, not healthcare, not economics,” she said. Heather Toney, 44, lives in Oxford, MS, and has two children ages four and 14. The former mayor of Greenville, MS, she now works with the Biden campaign on climate issues. Mississippi has dealt not only with extensive flooding, but a record number of storms. “Joe understands that we are working now to protect the next generation, but that we always need to have practical solutions,” Toney told Refinery29. “I’m a Black woman in Mississippi and a mother, so I cannot be anything but a climate change voter,” Toney said, adding that there is a clear connection between climate justice and racial justice. “Voter suppression is directly connected to climate change because to achieve change, we have to have the people voting. But we can’t get the people into office who would make changes because the vote is being suppressed.” Because of redlining policies, the devastating effects of chemical pollution on Black communities are intensified. In “cancer alley” — where people are 50 times as likely to get cancer than the average American — you see the product of redlining at work, with low-income Black people living along an 85-mile-long stretch along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, which is covered with oil refineries and petrochemical plants. The area has also seen some of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S.Among some younger voters, attitudes toward Biden’s climate change plan are more mixed. The Green New Deal, written by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed. Markey, is in their view a more ambitious plan than Biden’s. Biden has essentially embraced the framework of the Green New Deal, including its jobs guarantee, but wouldn’t ban natural gas and oil fracking or phase out nuclear power.“When I vote, especially at the more local level, I vote for representatives who either support the Green New Deal or have similar elements on their platform,” Lourdes Ginart, 27, from Eugene, Oregon, who is registered as an Independent and is voting for Biden, told Refinery29. “I think winning the Senate back will be the best way for climate champions and concerned representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ed Markey to push the legislation we desperately need for a more equitable and sustainable U.S.” Daniel Jubelirer, 27, said that he volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary, and plans to vote for Biden largely because of his climate plan. “I got involved with the Sunrise Movement a few years ago, and it was through Sunrise that I saw that the Democratic Party is what we push for them to be,” he said, referring to the youth climate justice movement that played a big role in advocating for the Green New Deal to be part of Biden’s plan. “If you push candidates to support very bold policies, they will. I’ve been really impressed with the way that Biden has listened to young leaders. I don’t think he goes far enough, and I’d love to see him do more. But his climate plan is still the most ambitious of any nominee in history. I like that he’s addressing creating jobs. If his climate plan is fully implemented, it’s very good.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
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It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. “So, I recognize the irony in this analogy,” begins Renee Salas, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine doctor and a fellow at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard University. “But the effect climate change has on health is kind of like an iceberg. There are the connections research and science has shown us — that’s what’s above water. But there’s probably so much more going on underneath the surface.”Even considering that, the effects we can see are shocking. “In 2014, we did a survey of physicians at the National Medical Association [a U.S. organization representing African American physicians and their patients]. It found that 88% of our doctors were already seeing the health effects of climate change in their patients,” Mark Mitchell, MD, a public health physician specializing in environmental health, tells Refinery29.The main thing these physicians reported was an exacerbation of preexisting heart and lung conditions, says Dr. Mitchell, who is also the associate professor of Climate Change, Energy, and Environmental Health Equity at George Mason University. But injuries from severe weather events, such as smoke inhalation due to wildfires, were equally common.When I ask him to list all the ways we know climate change is harming health, he uses the mnemonic HEATWAVE, meaning: Heat effects; Exacerbation of preexisting heart and lung conditions; Asthma; Traumatic injury caused by climate-related severe weather; Water- and food-borne illnesses; Allergies; Vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile and Zika; and Emotional and mental health impacts from experiences like loss of property or life due to climate-related disaster.Many of these problems are either partially or exclusively driven by the fact that the world is getting hotter. So if climate change is the iceberg, then its tip consists of the problems we can see, like the risk of heat-related illness and death. But lurking below the surface are dozens of less-obvious but profound dangers. Like this: Rising heat is associated with an increased incidence in antibiotics-resistant bacteria, Dr. Salas tells Refinery29. Or this: When pregnant women are exposed to extreme temperature, their fetuses may be at an increased risk of congenital heart defects. Climate change may also be contributing to the spread of disease-carrying insects like ticks into new areas, resulting in an increase of issues like Lyme disease. Heat may play a role in hastening the spread of viruses like West Nile and Zika, too, by altering mosquitoes’ lifespan and behavior. Increasing heat increases air pollution and lengthens the ragweed pollen season, which in turn exacerbates allergies and asthma, Dr. Mitchell points out: “Some of our allergists in the NMA are saying that they are concerned that they’re having to provide more and more adult allergy medications to younger and younger children — even though many haven’t been approved for kids. But the health effects are getting worse faster than we’re doing the research required to find out which medications are safe in kids.”Then there’s the fact that students in non-air-conditioned buildings have a hard time thinking; they can fall behind in school. Heat can impair sleep among those who do not have access to air conditioners, which can have widespread impacts on their life. “That can be a hidden way it harms health,” Dr. Salas says. “Heat is insidious.”So too are extreme weather conditions and climate-related disasters, both of which have become more common in the past several years due to climate change. Hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and drought all have the power to kill and injure, as we’re seeing in real time with the West Coast wildfires, which have killed at least 33 people and affected countless others through issues like smoke inhalation.But a less-talked-about way climate change affects health is by damaging infrastructure, Dr. Salas notes. Power outages are becoming more frequent due to heat and extreme weather events, she says. “In one case, the hospital down the street from where I live lost power,” she tells me, explaining that the building had generators, but only enough to cool certain areas. “They had to evacuate patients from the upper levels because it got so hot. Even once the power was restored, some of the equipment had gotten so hot that it took even longer for it to come back online.” After Hurricane Maria, she adds, a factory in Puerto Rico that made hospital equipment was damaged; shortages reached Dr. Salas’s hospital in Boston: “We had strict criteria on who could receive IV fluids, and I handed out Gatorade to those who didn’t meet the criteria.”Some of the damage is more subtle. While many areas aren’t necessarily getting more precipitation annually, the U.S. is experiencing more heavy downpours, Dr. Mitchell says. As a result, buildings, especially sub-standard housing, are developing more leaks, and the increased moisture is allowing more mold to grow — and that can worsen asthma and allergies.Then there are the mental health effects of climate change, which Surili Patel, the director of the Center for Climate, Health and Equity, says get underreported. “There are acute impacts, such as the post-traumatic stress disorder after a hurricane rips through a town, but there are gradual impacts too,” she explains. “When a kid has grown up with the possibility of a severe asthma attack hanging over their head, that is harmful to mental health.”DashDividers_1_500x100Not all communities are equally impacted by the health-related effects of climate change. The experts who spoke with Refinery29 said the young, the elderly, the low-income, and communities of color are particularly vulnerable.Children and the elderly (and, Dr. Mitchell adds, pregnant people) are especially at risk physically. Children’s bodies are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to illness from increased air and water pollution. Their mental health may also be harmed long-term by climate-related disaster disruptions and displacements from their home lives.Older adults are predisposed to health conditions and prone to injury, Patel notes. They’re also less able to regulate their body temperature, making them at high risk for issues like heat stroke.Pregnant women are more likely to become dehydrated, always a risk in extreme heat. “They can even go into premature labor due to heat,” Dr. Mitchell notes. Premature babies are more at risk for issues like learning disabilities. Black pregnant women are disproportionately affected by climate change in the U.S., research published in the journal JAMA Network Open showed, for many of the same reasons that people of color in general form another high-risk group.People of color are more likely to have more underlying conditions and pre-existing illnesses that could make them especially vulnerable to climate effects, Dr. Mitchell says. At all income levels, they are significantly more likely than white people to have high rates of exposure to air pollution, water pollution, and toxic chemicals, and to suffer the resulting health effects, he says. They’re also more likely to be low-income, which makes it difficult to avoid or reduce environmental exposures and their health effects.“Communities of all different colors are affected more severely by climate change than white communities,” Patel says. “Systemically, we have communities that have been drained of power and resources — or never had the power and resources to build healthy communities to begin with. I often say, we’ll all be impacted by, say, extreme weather conditions. The difference is, some communities will be able to rebuild and bounce back after a weather event destroys a town, and some will not because of these systemic issues.”Additionally, low-income people tend to live in “urban heat islands,” areas that are hotter than neighboring communities, often due to a lack of green life and an overuse of cement. Low-income people may also be less likely to be able to afford air-conditioning, increasing their odds of being affected by the hotter temperature.As with so many things, how climate change affects health is intersectional. Dr. Salas describes one recent patient, a man whose wife called 911 after he started acting confused. When he got to the hospital, his core temperature was 106 degrees Fahrenheit. “His body was literally cooking itself, and his brain couldn’t function,” Dr. Salas says. The man was low-income and elderly: He was living on the top floor of an apartment building, with no air-conditioning unit and one small window that didn’t open all the way. Climate change made the day hot, but being low-income placed the man in that un-air-conditioned room, which was even hotter, and being elderly made him even more susceptible to the extreme heat.Dr. Mitchell describes working with people in a low-income housing development that was right next to a highway in Connecticut. “The [air] pollution and noise pollution were really, really bad, and harmful for people who had asthma. Their nurses would say to them, ‘You should close your windows,’ but they didn’t have air-conditioning. When it’s over 90 degrees, they’d have to have their windows open. But then their children would have asthma attacks and wind up in the hospital. The waiting list to change apartments was more than one-year long so there was little that they could do to change the situation.” DashDividers_1_500x100Emphasizing all the ways climate change has affected our well-being — and what we’re at risk for if things continue along their same path — may be key to actually prompting real change. “Climate change is not just about polar bears and icebergs,” Dr. Salas tells Refinery29. “The way in which climate impacts health, and the way it’s disproportionately impacting some vulnerable populations, makes climate change personal. This is affecting your health, your kids’ health, your parents’ health, your neighbors’ health. And that can be a central driving force for climate action.”“I think talking about the health effects makes climate change real to everyone,” Dr. Mitchell agrees. “It’s not just ‘out there,’ happening someplace else. A lot of families have someone with asthma, with lung disease, with heart disease. And so now they can’t go outside on certain days when it’s too hot or there is too much air pollution,” he says. “It’s not a political issue — health is health; it’s for everybody.”While there are things individuals can do to protect themselves from the downstream effects of climate change — monitoring local air quality and staying indoors on hot or smoggy days; finding access to an air-conditioned space like a local library to use on hot days; having a plan for natural disaster; being aware of your local risk of vector-borne illness and using an appropriate repellent — these are short-term solutions for a long-term problem.“In many ways I think we’re forced to put a Band-aid on a bullet wound,” Dr Salas acknowledges. “Studies show, for instance, that as A/C use increases, we’re creating more greenhouse gas emissions and more air pollution.” But as the world gets hotter, A/C can save lives. As such, she advocates for solutions that make it more accessible or affordable, like subsidizing electricity for cooling for those who need it (similar to heat subsidies), while at the same time pushing for bigger solutions, such as creating more green space in cities to reduce the urban heat island effect. Dr. Mitchell is also in favor of allowing health professionals to write prescriptions for air conditioning units, and of climate-protective solutions that benefit the more vulnerable communities. He talks about closing down fossil fuel power plants in urban areas, for instance, which has been associated with a drop in asthma symptoms among people who live near them — who are often predominately Black and low-income communities.“The COVID-19 pandemic shows that we as a society can rapidly change our behavior. We can do the same thing with climate change, and emerge from the ashes of this stronger and more resilient. But prevention is so critical, as the pandemic has shown,” Dr. Salas says.Patel says that while meaningful change requires action from policymakers, there’s at least one thing individuals can do to help move the needle on the climate crisis. “Vote. Vote for health,” she says. “Not just in the national elections; the local ones are so important, because local decisions impact parks, education, and infrastructure in a huge way. So get to know your local candidates. And vote — I can’t stress it enough.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?1 Year Later, This Is What Greta Thunberg's Up ToWhat Calling Racism A Public Health Crisis MeansWhat It's Like To Be A Climate Change Activist Now
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You may have been too distracted with Way Day to notice that another online destination was unleashing its own slew of mega markdowns. Amazon’s Big Fall Sale has turned on its virtual faucet and the up to 60% off deals (on everything from vacuum cleaners to school supplies and other seasonal staples) are a-flowing. September 22nd marked the official first day of Fall. So, while we're ready to dive headfirst into all things cute-and-cozy, pumpkin-spicy, and leaf-crunchy, first we need to do some practical shopping prep for the transitional season ahead — and Amazon's currently got the good bargains on strategic staples that will set us up for total Libra-season-style domination. What this sale lacks in sparkles, it more than makes up for in utility. Go ahead and click through our top picks of the discounted bunch, from notebooks to heated blankets and Airborne. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Your Cozy Fall Favorites Are On Double-SaleYour Autumn Equinox Horoscope Is HereNew Fall Candles With The Softest & Coziest Scents
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