The countdown forare now single digits, and this year there are many important issues on the line. One of these issues could have consequences for humanity as a whole: climate change.
“These midterm elections have significant climate stakes,” Geoffrey Henderson, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, told CBS News.
Clean energy, pollution and infrastructure upgrades are all important aspects of climate policy that have found their way onto the ballot. Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at the nonpartisan research group Climate Central, told CBS News, “The earlier you act, the more effective the actions and the cheaper and the more benefits you get.”
“Although the scientific consensus on climate change has been well known for decades, we haven’t really had that action,” he said. “And every year that we don’t act just means that the world is more expensive and frankly, more dangerous for a lot of people.”
Henderson said that “on the face of it, climate is a global problem.”
“So typically we’re thinking about tackling climate on a large scale,” he said. “…So the question becomes, what can sites do that has a significant impact?”
CBS News found very few local and state measures on the ballot this year aimed at addressing climate and environmental issues. For Henderson, only two stood out: California’s Proposition 30 and New York’s Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Act.
“There are a lot of state and local ballot measures that focus on the environment, but very much on things like preserving forests and other habitats, and setting aside space for parks,” Henderson said. “Those two [California and New York] are the two that really stand out, next to Rhode Island, which has a significant, somewhat smaller scale measure of adaptation. But these are the two that really stand out in terms of their breadth and depth.”
California – Proposition 30
A recent Bloomberg report found that the nation’s most populous state, California, is on track to become thein the world. This development makes Proposition 30 even more important. If passed, the measure would raise taxes on personal income over $2 million by 1.75 percent, according to Ballotpedia.
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan fiscal and policy consultancy, the tax would go into effect in January and last until January 2043. But if the state manages to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions below a certain threshold sooner from this, the tax could be lowered earlier.
If passed, the tax is estimated to raise between $3.5 billion and $5 billion each year. This revenue will be split three ways: 45% to help individuals, businesses and governments buy new zero-emission vehicles; 35% to help with electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, such as charging stations; and 20% is dedicated to fire response and prevention.
Henderson noted that at least half of the EV money would go to low-income communities, which is “really important” to the transition to clean energy vehicles.
But this measure has, and faces opposition from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has said it amounts to a subsidy for rideshare companies. The California Teachers Association has also come out against the measure, saying it “undermines funding for public education, health care, seniors and other essential services.”
Rideshare companies already have to start electrifying their fleets in California in 2023.
New York – Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act
This measure is New York’s only ballot proposition this year. It has already been approved by the state legislature and, if approved by voters, would allow the state to sell bonds and borrow to finance up to $4.2 billion for projects that “reduce the effects of climate change.”
Of that money, at least $1.1 billion will go toward restoration and flood risk reduction. Up to $1.5 billion will go towards climate change mitigation. Up to $650 million will go to land conservation and recreation. and at least another $650 million will go toward improving water quality and resilient infrastructure. The government could also repay the debt if lower interest rates occur.
There is no list of projects yet, but Ballotpedia noted that the proposal could bring green building projects, clean energy to low-income housing areas, zero-emission school buses and other projects that help. About 35 percent of the funds will go to communities exposed to environmental risks and/or those who are socioeconomically marginalized, Henderson said.
According to the Gothamist news site, there was no significant opposition to the proposal except for the New York State Conservative Party, which opposed taking on more debt.
Rhode Island – Question 3, Green Economy Bond
The Rhode Island measure would issue $50 million in bonds for environmental programs and recreation areas. According to the state Department of Environmental Management, it will invest in green energy, climate resilience, water quality and more.
Money from the proposal would be used for a variety of environmental and climate initiatives, including $16 million to help communities improve coastal habitats, floodplains and infrastructure. $12 million for a carbon neutral education center and event pavilion at Roger Williams Park and Zoo. $5 million to help small businesses implement clean energy projects, $6 million for Narragansett Bay and watershed restoration, and forest and habitat restoration. and $4 million to clean up former industrial sites.
CBS News has found no significant public opposition to the measure, and no organized opposition is listed on Ballotpedia.
Other local measures
While these are the most important ballot measures CBS News has found, there are many more on the line next week. To name a few: Denver will vote on how to spend funds raised specifically to fight climate change, Florida will decide whether to offer tax incentives to homeowners who make their properties more flood-resistant, and Louisiana will consider potentially allowing local governments to waive water charges for customers who suffer infrastructure damage.
Beyond that, Henderson said, “There could be a lot of ballots that don’t explicitly mention climate, but nonetheless have a significant impact on it.”
Pershing and Henderson told CBS News that while national and international entities can have a broader impact, local actions make a difference — at a time when experts say action is increasingly urgent.
Just last week, the United Nations warned that the planet is on trackin less than 80 years, as nations fall behind on plans to reduce .
“These changes that we’ve seen — more extreme heat, more wildfires, drought risks, flood risks, all these things — are not only continuing, they’re getting worse,” Pershing said. “…Every degree we can change matters.”