How Environmental Voters Can Influence Climate Policy with Dr. Martin Rees – California China Climate Institute

Audio by: Megan Bergeron | Writing by: Callie Rhoades, Marie Hogan | Socials by: Wangyuxuan Xu

Why is There Low Voter Turnout from Environmental Voters?

The Environmental Voter Project’s (EVP) 2019-2020 Impact Report identified 11 million potential environmental voters in Fall of 2020 who were “unlikely to vote in the presidential election.” EVP found that this group is in addition to the large number of environmentalists who do not vote in state and local elections. These statistics highlight a key issue that many elected representatives confront when trying to build support for climate and environmental legislation: the need to increase voter turnout among those who support action on environmental issues. Increasing environmental voter turnout could make a significant impact on climate policy through legislative action and budget provisions. 

Writing in The Hill, Jeff Deaton, of Nexus Media, identified some significant factors that keep environmentalists from voting in larger numbers. Most prominently, systemic issues and infringement on voter rights have kept some of those most affected by climate change in the United States away from the polls. 

While voter turnout is still a significant problem, young people — many of whom are not yet old enough to vote — have been fighting hard to bring global awareness to the necessity of climate policy. 

How Young People are Influencing Political and Corporate Leaders on Climate Policy

Young people have become an integral component in the fight against the impacts of climate change. According to the UN, “ there are 1.21 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today, accounting for 15.5 percent of the global population.” Young people across the globe are facing a future deeply impacted by the effects of climate change. These young people are increasingly demanding climate action to take place. Famous youth activists like Greta Thunberg, Isra Hirsi, and many others, are bringing climate activism to the forefront of the minds of global leaders and citizens. 

In a poll conducted in 2021 surveying 21,000 people across 21 countries, UNICEF found that “on average, nearly three-quarters of young people who are aware of climate change believe governments should take significant action to address it. The share is even higher in low- and lower-middle income countries (82 per cent) where the impact of climate change is expected to be greatest.”

This survey also found that the majority of young people believe that there is still time to make significant changes to stop the impacts of climate change. The information presented in the survey shows how much of the global youth want their leaders to make significant changes when it comes to climate policy and action. 

While young activists fight for global awareness, groups like EVP will carry on working towards increasing voter turnout and pushing for climate legislation. Communities around the globe will continue to face the impacts of climate change until governments can agree to — and achieve — necessary climate action. 

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Rees: There is a far wider awareness of the climate crisis as being a global emergency and it’s important that individual voters should care because politicians won’t take action if they don’t think they’ll keep their voters behind them. 

Ethan: That’s Dr. Martin Rees, British astrophysicist and cosmologist. He spoke to Former California Governor Jerry Brown during a recent California China Climate Institute discussion.

Rees: It would be important to accelerate the technologies. One could have a more efficient solar, much cheaper batteries, ways of storing energy for six months over seasons and also we might want to have some Grid, which is transcontinental or worldwide even to allow renewable energy to be transferred from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. The amount of money being spent on R and D in energy, it’s tiny compared to defense.

Ethan: The US still has a largely underrepresented environmental voting block. The Environmental Voter Project has identified over 15 million non-voting environmentalists. For context, roughly 125 million people vote in general elections, and barely 80 million people vote in midterm elections. If these environmental voters turned out, they could have a big impact on where money is being spent.

Ethan: To learn more about Dr. Martin Rees and his work, visit, or wherever you get your podcast. I’m Ethan Elkind and this was Climate Break.

How Environmental Voters Can Influence Climate Policy with Dr. Martin Rees – California China Climate Institute