I’ve believed for over a decade that climate is the biggest threat to our people, our country, and our world. The urgency around bold climate action and the necessity for bold climate leadership has only grown. That is why this is the most significant election of our lifetime and it may be the most impactful. The UN says that we have just nine years from inauguration day 2021 to act decisively before irreparable damage is done to our planet – and that’s probably optimistic.
Under no circumstances can we afford four more years of Donald Trump.
I’ve traveled the country constantly for around a decade, and everywhere the impacts of our climate crisis jump out at you. I talked to farmers in Iowa whose yields have never been lower, whose finances have never been more unpredictable, and whose lives have been shaped by frequent life-altering climate events that should be considered once in a lifetime including last week’s devastating derecho storm. For these Americans’ livelihoods, for their mental health, and for our agriculture production as a nation, the stakes of voting for Joe Biden couldn’t be higher.
I have witnessed – painfully – how communities of color suffer disproportionately from climate change and environmental damage. It’s not right that in the richest, most powerful nation in the world, people in places like Flint, Michigan or Denmark, South Carolina can’t drink the tap water. At the core of our climate crisis is a justice issue, and both former vice president Joe Biden and senator Kamala Harris have been leaders in the fight for environmental justice. America has a history of deliberately concentrating our poisons in Black and brown communities, and that history is long and wrong. For these families, and our commitment to justice and equity, the stakes of voting for Joe Biden couldn’t be higher.
The scale and scope of our climate crisis can overwhelm our imaginations. Just the other day in Death Valley, California, the temperature reached 130F (54C), one of the hottest temperatures on record. And in the same weekend, the Trump administration opened up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But still I remain firmly optimistic.
I know the American government can bring the world together on climate because we saw it with the Paris Agreement. Biden knows the need for international partners and he has the relationships and experience to lead a coalition to move us beyond Paris. I know we can fight big oil and fossil fuel companies who harm our environment and poison our communities’ air, land, and water because I’ve been successfully doing it for a decade in my home state of California and around the country. We don’t need new pipelines. We need to rebuild the whole country sustainably and equitably and create millions of union jobs while doing it.
I know states can lead on this as well. When California reauthorized our cap and trade and committed to 100 per cent clean energy, and when Arizona and Nevada recently exponentially increased their clean energy investments, I recognized that, yes, we can do this, we can meet the moment, we can tackle our climate crisis by building a more prosperous and more equitable future.
My optimism hinges on this election. I know we have a fighting chance to counter the worst outcomes of climate change if we have Joe Biden at the helm, steering the ship off the shoals. Always prioritizing his own interests, Donald Trump acts as if we are in no danger. That is why I’m doing everything in my power to see Joe Biden elected, including working to mobilize millions of climate voters and donors across the country.
In conversations with Biden, he’s told me, “If all I do as president is put us on a safe climate trajectory, I can die happy.” For his kids and grandkids’ futures, for all of our futures, Joe Biden knows what’s at stake, and that’s how I know climate will be a top priority for his administration.
Recently I was asked, “Is there anything that gives you hope?” to which I emphatically can say yes, because we are going to win this election. We have to. The stakes are too high.
Tom Steyer is a philanthropist, climate activist and hedge fund manager who stood for the Democratic nomination for the presidency earlier this year
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