As voters head to the polls today to determine whether or not Gov. Gavin Newsom will be recalled, the issue of climate change remains at the top of some voters’ minds. Climate activists are expressing concern for potential changes to California’s climate legislation if someone replaces Newsom in the recall.
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder, the front runner replacement candidate, said he does believe in climate change, but climate action groups like the Sunrise Movement LA are concerned about what policy changes Elder could make if he is elected.
Elder “has fully denied any sort of correlation between climate change and the wildfires across California,” said Jack Carroll, a Logistics Coordinator for Sunrise Movement LA and USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences graduate student. When asked about the fires, ABC7 reports Elder said, “I’m not sure it’s because of climate change.”
The Sunrise Movement has officially backed Newsom in this election, telling Californians to vote “no” on the recall. However, the organization, notable for its youth leadership, is critical of how Newsom has handled climate change legislation.
“[Newsom] is certainly not an environmental champion, but he has done a lot of good work in that sector ‚” Carroll said. The Sunrise Movement feels that Newsom simply hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to legislation.
Carroll points to Newsom’s Executive Order, which will phase out gas-powered cars by 2035, as a positive step taken by the governor. Newsom has also directed local state agencies to stop new oil drilling and fracking by 2024. The state is also working on moving away from fossil fuel reliance, but Carroll said she is concerned Newsom has not done enough on this front.
The Sunrise Movement said they would prefer to work with Newsom, even though they do not agree with him on everything, than a Republican governor who thinks the Sunrise Movement should not even exist. “Larry Elder has put out an official statement calling environmentalist religious fanatics,” Carroll said.
All across the country voters are electing “polarizing candidates,” said Kamy Akhavan, Executive Director of USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future. According to Akhavan, polarization continues to trend upward, even on matters such as science, because political identities are becoming increasingly more important.
“Science is not dividing us, we are dividing ourselves,” Akhavan said. He points out that nobody wants climate change and the climate crisis is something that will affect everybody. When it comes to partisan politics, it is a concern for both the Republican and Democratic parties.
However the results of the recall election turn out, Carroll recommends that people concerned about the climate crisis reach out to their local communities, neighborhoods and city councils. “The most power is centered at the local government scale,” Carroll said.