As the last ballots are counted and the 2018 midterm elections come to an end, it is important to reflect on the many issues which candidates used to differentiate themselves and their visions of good government. Climate change and environmental policy more broadly form a policy question over which there is increasing polarization of opinion, and as such, those running for office have used such topics to propel themselves into the spotlight as well as to disparage their opponent’s views. Senate hopefuls in particular will need to address the scientific concerns of entire states, which can have highly variable weather patterns and sources of economic activity, presenting the need for a broader and more comprehensive approach to climate policy. To explore the role of climate change on this year’s senate race, let’s look at some of the states with the most competitive races and the expected climate impacts in those regions.
Senator-elect: Joe Manchin III (D)
Senator-elect: Rick Scott (R) or Bill Nelson (D)*
Senator-elect: Josh Hawley (R)
Senator-elect: Ted Cruz (R)
Senator-elect: Jacky Rosen (D)
The intersection of climate science and politics forms an illustrative relationship, given the role of elected officials in supporting the interests of their constituencies as well as the highly region-specific consequences global change will have on the various ecosystems of the United States. Climate change will affect all Americans, but the localized impacts on different communities form the basis upon which the members of those groups will assess the relative benefits and risk of government action and corporate regulation. When these new and returning Senators enter the 116th United States Congress next year, we will have the chance to witness how exactly they will address (or ignore) the impending threats climate change represents to each of their communities.
*As of the time of this writing, a recount is likely to be triggered in Florida’s Senate election.
Region-specific climate risks were adapted from information in the 2014 National Climate Assessment (U.S. Global Change Research Program).