Pointing to what happened in 2000 and 2016, when a Republican candidate secured the presidency by a series of narrow margins and then enacted policies that harmed the environment, they called on people to put aside political “purity” and vote for the Democratic nominee.
“We the undersigned are lifelong activists in the environmental movement. Many of us have been taking to the streets to prick the public conscience since the 1960s,” says a public letter released on Monday.
“We have learned in the course of decades that militancy can build awareness of the environmental threat to human life itself, and activists younger than we have inspired us with the Green New Deal and the Sunrise Movement and by becoming visionary leaders of a new generation.”
It says in the past, many her voted for third parties, such as the Greens or Libertarians. But not in 2020.
“Only by rallying behind the Democratic Party can we end the Trump administration’s unprecedented malignancy, fear mongering, pathological lying, and atrocious policymaking. This is not the year to make a utopian statement or to waste a single vote.”
Among the signatories are Denis Hayes, the founder of Earth Day, John Adams, a founding member of the Natural Resources Defence Council, Charlene Dougherty, of the Environmental Defence Fund, and Elizabeth Campbell, who formerly worked for the department of the interior.
The letter, which comes as wildfires have killed several dozen in the American West and as Mr Trump continues to blame alleged poor forest management rather than the climate change crisis, says that in 2000 Al Gore lost Florida, and with it the White House, by less than 600 votes in a states where Green Party candidate Ralph Nader secured 97,000 votes.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, which gave Mr Trump sufficient electoral college votes to win, by just 20,000. In that same race, around 30,000 people voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and more than 100,000 cast ballots for Gary Johnson and the Libertarians.
“Angry right-wing voters and liberal absentees put Trump in the White House in 2016. In 2020 the same unholy team could keep him there,” says the letter.
There was no immediate to the letter from either the Greens or the Libertarians.
One organiser, Peter Harnik, director of both the Centre for City Park Excellence and The Trust for Public Land, told The Independent the signatories were not suggesting third parties ought not to be on the ballot. He also acknowledged many voters disliked the nation’s two party system. Yet he said: “This is the system in which we have to operate.”
He said the signatories were compelled to speak out in large part because of Mr Trump’s record on the environment, which had seen him overturn many of the regulations enacted by Barack Obama. He had also announced the US will pull out the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate.
After he took office in 2001, one of George W Bush’s first acts was to announce the US would not push to ratify the Kyoto treaty on global warming.
Commentators say Mr Biden’s position of the environment has been pushed to the left by the presence in the primary of Bernie Sanders, whose supporters he will need to beat Mr Trump.
One of the policy workshops he and Mr Sanders established this summer focused on the environment. It was chaired by former secretary of state John Kerry, and congresswomanAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a supporter of Mr Sanders who just last year denounced Mr Biden’s “middle of the road” approach.
The workshop created a series of policies, including spending $2 trillion to combat climate change and environmental racism, and push to make electrical production carbon neutral by 2035.
“We’ve seen a pretty huge transformation in Biden’s climate plan,” Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, told the Washington Post. “What I’ve seen in the last six to eight weeks is a pretty big transition in upping his ambition and centering environmental justice.”