Posted on July 28, 2021
It’s hot out — and with climate change upon us, it’s bound to get even hotter.
This summer’s surge in heat may also mean big and unexpected surges to your monthly energy bills. According to Energy Star, heating and cooling accounts for half of a home’s yearly energy bill — nearly $900!
Luckily, there are some ways to keep cool this summer while saving money and protecting the planet. Here are a couple easy tips and tricks to try right now.
Adjust your thermostat
- Keep the temperature in your home to a level that is warm but comfortable and provides some humidity control, but not so cold that you use excessive energy.
- Increase the temperature when you leave so that you’re not using extra energy to cool your home when no one is there.
- Consider purchasing a programmable or smart thermostat, which can help keep your home comfortable and adjust the temperature at night or when you leave. For models that are connected to WiFi, you can even adjust the temperature from your smartphone away from home.
- The U.S. Dept. of Energy suggests consumers can save up to 10% a year on their energy bills by turning your thermostat back 7° to 10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.
Install window coverings
- The sun can really heat up a room so consider shutting your curtains or blinds to keep out the heat during the day or installing window coverings to keep heat at bay.
- Here’s some great energy saving information about choosing the right energy efficient window attachments.
Use a ceiling fan
- Traditional air conditioning uses a lot of power. Ceiling fans are more energy efficient. Running AC can cost 43 cents an hour compared to 1 cent an hour to run a ceiling fan.
- However, fans don’t lower air temperature; they merely run moving air across your skin to make you feel cooler, helping to evaporate sweat.
- Make sure to turn off the fan when you leave the room to save more energy.
- If you’re a homeowner, consider improving the weatherization of your home to keep heat out and the cool in, by insulating your attic or crawl spaces, and sealing around your doors, windows, outlets and switches, and other areas that may be prone to outside weather.
- Schedule a home energy audit with a professional.
Turn down your hot water heater
- According to the Dept. of Energy, heating water accounts for roughly 12% of your home’s energy bill.
- If your hot water heater is set too high, you may be wasting “$36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses.”
- By reducing your hot water heater’s temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees, you could save anywhere from 2% to 22% in your energy bill annually.
Install energy efficient lighting
- The average household spends around 11% of its annual energy bill on lighting.
- If you’re still primarily using inefficient incandescent lighting, consider purchasing LED lights and/or fixtures. These lights may have a slightly higher upfront cost, but they are more efficient and last much longer.
- By upgrading your home’s lighting, you could save between 50% to 75% on your household’s lighting energy use.
Bonus tip: Join CREDO Energy
- Consider joining CREDO Energy, our amazing energy program in partnership with Energy Rewards to enable you to power your home with 100 percent renewable wind energy while powering the progressive causes you care about.
- Learn more at CREDO Energy, check availability in your area and sign up to be notified when it’s coming to your state.
Posted on July 26, 2021
We won’t mince words: We are in a climate emergency. Our planet is experiencing more frequent and intense wildfires, rising sea temperatures, melting sea ice, ocean acidification, habitat loss, drought, extreme flooding and natural disasters.
Just this year, we’ve seen extreme climate-related disasters and record-breaking temperatures that we could have never thought possible just a few years ago.
Today, we wanted to share a few of these shocking climate facts from 2021 — and offer a few ways you can help combat climate change, because we have a real opportunity to act now to help slow this crisis, before it’s too late.
Extreme heat could become the new normal
No matter where you live, it’s hot outside, and it sure feels hotter than it has in years past. Experts believe these heat waves will essentially become a “new normal” and a fact of life in the coming years and decades.
Here are just a few headlines from this year:
- AP: Heat wave grips US West amid fear of a new, hotter normal
- Yahoo: “The climate scientists have said this is coming.” Extreme heat new normal as 110-degree temperatures blanket region
- Washington Post: Climate change has gotten deadly. It will get worse.
- CBS News: NOAA’s “new normal” climate report is anything but normal
- MSNBC: Extreme Weather Is ‘New Normal’ Thanks To Decades Of Climate Inaction
While these headlines may sound alarmist, some climate scientists believe the heat waves of today will become the normal summer temperatures in just a few years, making this summer actually feel cool.
Pacific Northwest US: Record temperatures higher than Florida or Texas
During the so-called “heat dome” that settled over parts of the Pacific Northwest, blanketing Oregon, Washington and parts of western Canada in extreme heat, temperatures hit once-in-a-millenium record highs.
For example, Seattle hit a steamy 108 degrees F, nearly 10 degrees hotter than the all-time record in Tampa, Florida. In Portland, Oregon, the recent 116 degree heat dome record was 3 degrees higher than the hottest Dallas, Texas has ever been.
How could this have happened? According to experts, “An exceptional weather pattern and climate change have cooked up a heat wave unmatched in regional intensity.”
Canada: Small British Columbia town hits record 121 degrees
Western Canada wasn’t spared from the worst of June’s heat dome. In the small village of Lytton, roughly 60 miles northeast of Vancouver, the temperature hit a scorching 121 degrees.
According to the Washington Post, this heat record — which left scientists speechless — is hotter than any recorded temperature in Europe, South America, or in the contiguous 48 US states outside the Desert Southwest, and the highest temperature observed above 45 degrees latitude.
Arctic sea ice hits record low for July
Earlier this July, existing Arctic sea ice fell to a record low for this time of year, since satellite records have been kept starting in 1979. New studies found “sea ice in coastal areas may be thinning at up to twice the pace previously thought,” that “Arctic ice may be in worse trouble than thought,” and that climate change is playing a role in the record melt.
Germany & Belgium: More than 150 missing, 200 killed from climate-induced flooding
Parts of western Germany and Belgium were left in ruins earlier this month when massive rain and flooding destroyed entire villages and left others looking like a “battlefield.” At least 180 in Germany were killed, and another 31 in Belgium. With upcoming elections in Germany, climate change will become a front-and-center issue in the campaign season.
Largest US wildfire in 2021 has burned 400,000+ acres already
Experts continue to warn that wildfires, especially on the West Coast and also across the country, will continue to worsen as climate change progresses. The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon is no exception. It has burned over 400,000 acres, and as of this writing, the fire is less than 50% contained. Warm weather and dry conditions are making things difficult for fire crews to get the wildfire under control.
Across the United States, wildfires have burned roughly 1.5 million acres this year so far.
China: One year’s worth of rain in 72 hours
As of July 26, nearly 70 people have been reported killed due to flooding and extreme weather-related events in Zhengzhou, China and central Henan province after one year’s worth of rain fell during a 72-hour period. The massive rain and flooding opened sinkholes in the ground, forced people to abandon their cars, and left people trapped in their flooded homes and in subway and highway tunnels.
While one isolated weather event can’t necessarily be attributed to climate change, this event reflects a “global trend of extreme weather” across the planet.
How you can help combat climate change
We’ll be honest, these statistics can seem pretty frightening, but experts believe we still have time to slow these devastating effects before it’s too late. Here are some ways you can help:
- For starters, get involved with the work of our climate justice partners and grantees, including Sunrise Movement, 350.org, League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice, and InsideClimate News. You can see our full list of climate partners at CREDODonations.com.
- If you’re not already a member, consider joining CREDO Mobile. Just by using our mobile service, you will help us fund climate justice philanthropy to all of our amazing climate grantees. Since 1985, we’ve donated more than $19 million to organizations fighting for climate justice and the environment.
- Join CREDO Energy, which gives you simple, straightforward access to 100% clean electricity for your home. By joining, you will help us donate $150,000 each month to the progressive organizations you care about and make sustainable change possible. Check availability in your area and join today!
Posted on July 21, 2021
Just when you thought AT&T’s support of right-wing causes couldn’t get any more inexcusable, it got even worse.
As Texas Republicans try to ram through legislation to restrict voting, a stunning new analysis by government watchdog Accountable.US found that AT&T’s corporate PAC gave a $100,000 donation to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s reelection campaign on June 22 — days after the governor vetoed funding for the legislature to punish brave lawmakers who shutdown a vote on racially motivated voter suppression bills.
This massive donation comes after AT&T’s CEO said earlier this year that he “believed the right to vote is sacred” but “election laws are…ultimately the responsibility of elected officials.”
In this case, however, AT&T has made clear which side they’re on — and it’s not on the side of defending our fundamental right to vote.
The analysis by Accountable.US also found that AT&T gave multiple donations to Texas state lawmakers after they publicly supported or voted for these racist voter suppression bills in the state legislature, which have been billed as “largest step back since Jim Crow” and “the worst anti-voting bills in the country.”
Some of the donations to Republican Texas lawmakers include:
- $20,000 to Texas State Sen. Kelly Hancock
- $5,000 to Texas State Sen. Robert Lee Nichols
- $5,000 to Texas State Rep. Phil King
- $2,500 to Texas State Rep. Trent Ashby
These donations are in addition to the contributions AT&T has made to state lawmakers behind some of the worst voter suppression bills in the country. As we previously highlighted, AT&T tops the list of corporate voter suppression contributors, giving $811,000 to state lawmakers supporting these bills, and, as of March of this year, AT&T donated $574,500 to the backers of Texas voter suppression bills since 2018.
As Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, put it, “Money talks, and as states like Texas actively attempt to suppress the freedom to vote, corporations need to pick a side and fight back against racist attacks on our democracy. Unfortunately, it appears AT&T is more invested in being on the wrong side of history.”
Here at CREDO, we’ve picked our side of history in the fight to protect voting rights — ever since we were founded more than 35 years ago. While AT&T claims publicly to support voting rights, then uses their revenue to donate to politicians preventing people of color from casting ballots, we’re funding progressive organizations who are working to make it easier to vote.
In fact, since 1985, our members who use our products and services every day have helped us donate over $10 million to voting rights groups like Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight Action, Vote.org and the Brennan Center for Justice (a July grantee you can vote for right now).
If you or your loved ones are considering making the switch from AT&T, join the only carrier empowering climate justice, economic justice, civil rights and voting rights by connecting our members to great mobile service to make this world a better place. Visit CREDOMobile.com to learn more.
Posted on July 14, 2021
Here at CREDO, protecting your privacy is a core value of our company. Your personal data isn’t for sale, and we work to protect your data from government intrusion.
But your personal data is at risk in other ways. Hackers and scammers are always looking for new ways to access email, social media, bank and investment accounts and other sensitive data. In fact, reports of hacking rose substantially during the pandemic — up to 4,000 cyber attacks per day! — and last year, the Federal Trade Commission received 1.4 million reports of identity theft, twice as many as 2019.
One of the best ways to secure your most important accounts is by turning on two-factor authentication. It’s one extra, yet quick and easy step to ensure your accounts remain a little bit safer amidst the skyrocketing number of hacking attempts. Here’s how to set it up.
We should begin by emphasizing that while two-factor authentication is one of the best ways to secure your accounts, it’s not the only step you should take to protect your data from intrusion.
In addition to keeping your computer, phone and other devices updated with the latest patches and system software, it’s extremely important to pick unique and complex passwords for your important accounts, like your primary email account, financial accounts, social media, data storage and the like.
You should also consider using a password manager to securely store and retrieve your passwords. We’ve written a detailed blog post on how to get started with password managers.
We’ve also previously written a tip on how to protect yourself from common online and phone scams that may be worth checking out, too.
What is two-factor authentication?
Also known as two-step verification or multi-factor authentication, two-factor authentication is a way of accessing your accounts using two separate steps to verify your identity. The first step is the one you’re most familiar with: A username and password combination. The second step requires a separate identifier, like your phone, an app, a physical key, or even a biometric, like a fingerprint.
For example, to log into your email account with two-factor authentication turned on, you would first log in with your username and password. Then, depending on the method you’ve chosen, you may receive a text message, a pin number sent a secondary email account, or be required to enter a pin from a special app on your phone. Having this second step makes it much harder for hackers to access your personal information.
How to two-factor your accounts
Today, many common online services, like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, as well as most financial institutions, have the option to turn on two-factor authentication. It’s possible that some of your online accounts, including accounts associated with your workplace or school, require it. It’s a good idea, if the service has the option, to turn it on. Using two-factor is usually a very quick and simple extra step, and many times, the app or website will remember the device you logged in from, so you will only have to perform the two-factor once per device login.
In terms of two-factor methods, a code sent by text or SMS message is the most common, but probably the least secure, since the messages are unlikely to be encrypted. Some services allow you to receive a code to your primary email address on file. Authenticator apps, which are more secure, are apps that you install on your smartphone and pair with your service by scanning a QR code (see our tip on scanning QR codes), that provide you with a disappearing pin number to use to verify your identity. Here’s more about authenticator apps and a list of the most popular ones.
One quick note: The drawback to using two factor authentication is that you must be in possession of your secondary method of verification, whether that’s your phone, tablet, app, or email address. If your account or service allows you to use a backup method to authenticate your identity (say, text message and email), turn more than one method on just in case you lose access to your primary devices.
How to turn on two-factor authentication for popular accounts and services
Here’s a quick reference guide with links to instructions for some common accounts and services so you can begin turning on two-factor authentication right now and protecting your accounts from hackers and other criminal activity. In addition to the services below, make sure to check with your financial institutions on turning on two-factor authentication for these important accounts, too.
- Amazon: Two-Step Verification (2SV) Settings (you may need to log in to change these settings)
- AOL: Add two-step verification for extra security
- Apple: Two-factor authentication for Apple ID
- Facebook: What is two-factor authentication and how does it work on Facebook?
- Google: Protect your account with 2-Step Verification
- Instagram: What’s two-factor authentication and how does it work on Instagram?
- Microsoft: How to use two-step verification with your Microsoft account
- Twitter: How to use two-factor authentication
- Yahoo: Add two-step verification for extra security
Posted on July 13, 2021
When politicians fail, The Fairness Project helps grassroots organizations run ballot initiatives to support working families. In just five years, we have raised wages, expanded health care, and brought paid leave to over 17.7 million people.
Since 2016, The Fairness Project has broken new ground and won Medicaid expansion at the ballot box in red and purple states when politicians have refused to act. Our work to expand Medicaid in Maine, Utah, Idaho and Nebraska paved the way for us to deliver health care to an additional 430,000 people in Missouri and Oklahoma last summer.
The Fairness Project ー along with local state partners, hundreds of Oklahoman advocates, and volunteers ー worked tirelessly to pass Question 802, an initiative to expand Medicaid. We collected a historic number of signatures to certify the ballot language and on June 30, 2020, Oklahomans voted to deliver health care to 200,000 of their community members, help keep rural hospitals open and bring tax dollars back into the state from Washington, D.C. Along with the expanded health care, the state is expected to gain over $1 billion annually in federal dollars and create over 20,000 new jobs.
After helping to lock in this victory, we’re thrilled that on June 1, 2021, Oklahomans were finally able to begin enrolling in Medicaid to access the life-saving care that they voted for. Oklahoma voters put Medicaid expansion on the ballot and demanded change. On July 1, 2021, benefits went into effect for over 125,000 people who’ve qualified so far.
Now, we’re working to expand Medicaid in South Dakota so that nearly 50,000 parents, farmers, and retirees can access life-saving care. Our nonpartisan coalition to expand Medicaid is one of the broadest coalitions to ever launch a ballot measure in South Dakota because it’s common sense — thousands of hardworking, low-income communities should not have to go without necessary health care coverage.
By going directly to voters with our campaigns, we’ve been able to change millions of lives — but we’re just getting started. Funding from CREDO will help empower voters through ballot initiatives to win progressive policy change for economic, racial, and gender justice by raising wages, expanding Medicaid, guaranteeing paid sick leave, curbing predatory lending, and more.
Founded in 1996, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum builds power with Asian Americans and Pacific Islander women and girls to influence critical decisions that affect our lives, our families and our communities. Using a reproductive justice framework, the organization elevates AAPI women and girls to impact policy and drive systemic change in the United States.
This year, NAPAWF is celebrating its 25th anniversary, which speaks volumes to the two and a half decades of sustained work fighting for AAPI women to be seen and heard, but at the same time, we’re seeing one of the most significant surges in harassment and violence against AAPI communities in 25 years.
Yet, NAPAWF continues to fight the specific, intersectional challenges AAPI women and girls face: the sexual violence, sexism, and racism that are intertwined for AAPI women.NAPAWF has been front and center as hatred and violence against AAPI women has risen. Here’s some of the critical work they’ve accomplished recently:
- The organization has been in the media, making clear that the horrific Atlanta spa shootings were not an isolated incident, but an extreme manifestation of the racist, sexist violence that AAPI women experience regularly.
- They’ve collected and shared research demonstrating with data what the group has been saying for years: that AAPI women and girls are too often not seen and heard for the human beings we are, but are rather stereotyped, fetishized, and portrayed as the perpetual foreigner.
- NAPAWF has been working toward a more just future, where AAPI women are not just free from the threat of violence but truly liberated and living full, autonomous lives.
- And they’ve been busy with several partner organizations setting an agenda for their movement and laying out for officials the top priorities for AAPI women.
Last month, NAPAWF celebrated the reintroduction in both houses of Congress of the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act, which addresses economic security and healthcare access, two of the issues cited most frequently by those polled by NAPAWF. NAPAWF members nationwide have been mobilizing their communities and engaging their representatives on this bill, which would remedy economic injustice and inequities in healthcare access for immigrants.
This month, you can vote to help CREDO distribute a portion of our $150,000 grant to NAPAWF and help them further invest in the AAPI women leaders of tomorrow. Visit CREDODonations.com this July to cast your vote.
In December 2020, CREDO members voted to donate $60,183 to Green America to advance our mission to create a more socially just and environmentally sustainable society – and advance our mission we have! Since receiving the award, we have leveraged consumer power to achieve major victories in ending child labor, increasing corporations’ use of renewable energy, and popularizing regenerative agriculture though Climate Victory Gardening.
Like CREDO members, Green America recognizes that human wellbeing and ecological health are deeply intertwined. In our nearly 40 years as the nation’s leading green economy organization, Green America has observed that the same corporations that have subpar environmental regulations are often lagging in their labor and human rights policies as well.
This correlation is especially evident in the chocolate industry, where large companies profit off cocoa while West African cocoa farmers live off less than one dollar per day amidst rampant deforestation. Pressure from Green America and international allies is getting chocolate companies to take action. In the Chocolate Scorecard Green America compiled with our allies for the End Child Labor in Cocoa campaign, it is clear which major chocolate companies are improving the social and environmental impacts of their supply chains – and that the leading small chocolate companies are way ahead of their larger counterparts!Green America believes in a world where our favorite sweet treats do not rely on exploitation or deforestation – and our audience is making this world possible. Thanks to pressure from nearly 40,000 individuals who took Green America’s latest End Child Labor in Cocoa action, Godiva issued a public policy on responsible cocoa in spring 2021. With this new policy, Godiva committed to taking steps to scale child labor monitoring, limiting deforestation in its supply chain, and more. CREDO members can help encourage additional progress by signing Green America’s new petition urging ten major chocolate brands to put an end to child labor and deforestation in their supply chains.
Since receiving our generous donation from CREDO, we have leveraged pressure from tens of thousands of consumers to persuade Amazon to commit to powering 100% of its operations using renewable energy by 2025. This new commitment, which is five years earlier than the company’s initial target transition date, encompasses Amazon’s corporate offices, fulfillment centers, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers. Though Green America continues to push Amazon to improve treatment of warehouse workers and garment workers in its supply chain, we are also celebrating the company’s acceleration of its clean energy goals as more corporate renewable energy purchasing translates to increases in our country’s overall renewable energy capacity.
CREDO’s donation is not only supporting Green America’s digital actions, but also our on-the-ground efforts to counter climate change. A portion of CREDO’s award was used to support the growth of our nonprofit’s Climate Victory Gardens campaign, which is enlisting thousands of Americans to use regenerative gardening practices (such as composting, not disturbing the soil, and eliminating the use of pesticides) in their own communities. This month, Green America reached 9,306 registered Climate Victory Gardens! Using estimates from Project Drawdown, these gardens have the potential to collectively sequester 4,557 tons of carbon each year – the equivalent of eliminating emissions from driving 38,093,225 miles – while also supporting pollinator health, reducing stormwater run-off, and producing organic food! Visit our website to register your own Climate Victory Garden or learn how to start one.Earlier this year, Green America also joined 200+ allies in the launch of the Pay Your Workers email campaign. This campaign demands that apparel brands pay garment workers their normal wages throughout the duration of the pandemic, protect workers’ rights to organize, and sign on to a severance guarantee fund. CREDO members can support this new campaign by taking action here to become part of the collective consumer voice pushing corporations to adopt practices better for people and the planet.
Free Speech For People is a national nonpartisan legal advocacy and public education organization at the forefront of the movement to reclaim our democracy for we, the people. We work to ensure all people have an equal voice and an equal vote in our democracy. We advance our mission by challenging big money in politics, fighting for free and fair elections, ending corporate abuse of power, and confronting corruption in government.
Thanks to the votes of CREDO members in December 2020, Free Speech For People was honored to receive a grant totaling $41,925. Your support helped us to achieve critical victories for voters, our elections, and our democracy.
Fighting Back Against the Influence of Foreign Corporate Money in Elections
Following the 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, multinational corporations with significant foreign investment became able to donate unlimited funds to wield influence in our elections and overwhelm the voices and votes of everyday people. To challenge these corporations seeking to overtake our democracy, Free Speech For People developed the first legislation in the country to end foreign-corporate spending in elections.
On June 3, 2021, the New York State Senate passed, with bipartisan support, our model bill, the New York Democracy Preservation Act. The legislation would bar corporations with partial foreign ownership from spending to influence the outcome of New York State elections. A companion bill, A7458, has been introduced in the State Assembly by Assembly member Latrice Walker of Brooklyn. We are also helping to advance similar legislation in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oregon.
Protecting the Right to Vote and Our Elections through Legal Action
Free Speech For People works to challenge voter suppression, the use of unreliable and insecure voting systems, and unequal voting conditions. This year we achieved a major victory for democracy with a case in Minnesota. In October 2020, we filed a federal lawsuit against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, and its chairman for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The company planned to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state for the November 2020 general election. In response to our complaint, we were granted a motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Atlas Aegis from moving forward with their illegal voter intimidation plans.
In February 2021, the court approved a consent decree and a landmark settlement, active through January 1, 2025, which directs that Atlas Aegis and its chairman are prohibited from engaging in voter intimidation activities, including attempts to threaten and coerce voters and election workers, in the state. We are using this case as a model to introduce and move forward legislation across the country to challenge voter intimidation efforts, which primarily target underrepresented communities.
Challenging Corruption at the Highest Levels of Government:
Free Speech For People co-founded the national movement calling for the impeachment of former President Donald Trump, due to repeated and ongoing abuses of power, while in office. We continue to serve as a leading force in the effort to hold former President Donald Trump accountable to the law. We led in issuing, with a coalition of national organizations, a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to create an independent task force in the Department of Justice to investigate potential crimes committed by Trump and his associates.
In support of this effort, we launched the new coalition, Hold Trump Accountable, with national organizational partners. Over 200,000 people across the country have joined our call on the Department of Justice to establish this task force to investigate Trump and his associates and to ensure that they are held accountable for any and all violations of federal law.
Holding Social Media Giants Accountable
Since our founding in 2010, we have helped to lead the challenge against unchecked corporate power and the threat it poses to our democracy. Now, we are leading a bold new fight to challenge the dangerous impact of disinformation and the amplification of violence on social media platforms.
The insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 was preceded by the spread of false information and threats of violence online, including the oft-repeated lie, by former President Trump and others, that the election was stolen. This lie was subsequently amplified by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and 4chan. This has created a grave threat to our democracy and our people. In the face of this threat, our elected officials have failed to take any meaningful action.
Free Speech For People has introduced and is advancing the Digital Accountability Act, our model bill which would hold social media companies accountable for amplifying disinformation and violence via their online platforms.
Thank you to CREDO members for your support, which has made this work possible. To join the movement to reclaim our democracy, please visit our website, www.freespeechforpeople.org.
Posted on July 11, 2021
American democracy faces unprecedented attacks. July grantee Brennan Center for Justice believes the best way to defend our democracy is to strengthen it. Take a minute to read their recent analysis about why fixing America’s broken political system and building a healthier democracy can contribute to a more just and sustainable world — then cast your vote for Brennan Center at CREDODonations.com to help us distribute a portion of our $150,000 July grant.
The recent record-breaking heat wave on the West Coast, among other extreme weather events, has underscored the urgency of addressing the global climate crisis. Such efforts will require significant action from the federal government, including policies to reduce carbon emissions and adaptation measures to prepare communities for rising sea levels and extreme weather. Too often, however, the U.S. political system interferes with the government’s ability to carry out the significant action required to address the climate crisis.
The United States needs a healthy system of democracy — one that represents the will of the people — in order to combat climate change, which has emerged as a leading voting issue for Americans. This includes repairing the nation’s campaign finance system, which has allowed corporations and special interest groups — including big spenders from fossil fuel industries — to wield outsize influence in Washington. And it requires ensuring that communities of color and low-income communities, who often bear the brunt of environmental hazards, aren’t disenfranchised.
Suppressing the vote suppresses climate action
The right to vote is a crucial element of a functioning democracy. But in recent years, a surge in voter suppression has threatened America’s progress toward a more inclusive democracy. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which weakened a number of the Voting Rights Act’s key protections, states have accelerated their efforts to pass laws, such as reduced early voting and strict ID requirements, that make it harder for many citizens to vote. These restrictive laws, along with manipulative practices such as extreme gerrymandering, are often designed to target low-income communities of color, threatening their rights to fair political representation.
These are often the same communities that are disproportionately exposed to pollutants and other environmental hazards — along with the associated health consequences, such as a higher risk of certain respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancers. And these are the communities that are most vulnerable to the devastating effects of a changing climate, such as extreme heat, rising sea levels, and displacement.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the communities most affected by environmental injustice are those that are most likely to express concern about the climate crisis. Over the past decade, polls have consistently found that people of color — including Black, Latino, and Asian Americans — overwhelmingly support government action on climate change and environmental protection. And, according to a 2017 poll by ecoAmerica, 91 percent of African Americans and 90 percent of Latinos surveyed were “personally concerned” about climate change, compared with 76 percent of people nationwide and 69 percent of white Americans. Similarly, of those surveyed, 82 percent of African Americans and 81 percent of Latinos supported government action to protect against climate impacts, compared with 70 percent of people nationwide and 66 percent of white Americans.
The communities that are most vulnerable to environmental injustice are often the same ones targeted for voter suppression and gerrymandering. A democracy that is more responsive to the concerns of these communities — and, more broadly, to the will of the American people — will be better positioned to address the climate crisis. Federal legislation that is currently under consideration would, if enacted, help bring about that more representative democracy. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and strengthen the protections of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in elections. And the expansive For the People Act would reverse voter suppression through a variety of reforms — including automatic voter registration, nationwide early voting, and a ban on partisan gerrymandering — all of which would make it easier for eligible voters to participate in American democracy and have their voices heard in elections.
Big money and climate change
But voter suppression is far from the only antidemocratic force that threatens to thwart substantive climate change legislation. Another major factor is the role that big money plays in American politics, including in electoral campaigns. This dynamic has allowed corporations and the wealthiest individuals to hold an astounding amount of influence over the lawmaking process in Washington, often spending aggressively to kill climate change legislation, such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009, which passed the House of Representatives only to fail in the Senate. According to some estimates, groups spend up to $1 billion per year on lobbying against climate legislation.
If the political system gave an advantage to the fossil fuel lobby and other special interest groups prior to 2010, it tilted even more in their favor with the Supreme Court’s consequential ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The decision, which permitted corporations and other groups to spend unlimited money on elections, sparked a massive increase in political spending from special interests. In particular, Citizens United gave rise to the creation of super PACs — organizations largely powered by the wealthiest donors — and a surge in secret spending from dark money groups, which don’t disclose their donors.
These developments have further expanded the political influence of corporations, wealthy individuals, and special interest groups — including the fossil fuel lobby, which has significantly increased its election spending. In 2006, for example, the oil and gas industry spent an estimated $23.6 million in federal elections, a figure that skyrocketed after Citizens United to $85.7 million in 2012, $104.5 million in 2016, and $138.8 million in 2020. (These figures don’t account for contributions from dark money groups, whose spending is secret.) Critics have pointed out how this spending, combined with lobbying efforts, has stalled climate change legislation in Washington.
A Supreme Court reversal or constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United is extremely unlikely in the short term. In the meantime, however, federal legislation could help counter the role of big money in American politics. The For the People Act includes a provision for a nationwide small donor public financing system for congressional and presidential elections. Under this system, small donors who give to participating candidates would see their contributions matched by public funds. The program would come at no cost to taxpayers, as it would be funded primarily by a surcharge on criminal and civil penalties on corporate defendants and their executive officers.
If enacted, the system would significantly expand the power of small donors, and political candidates would rely less on big checks from wealthy donors and special interest groups, including big fossil fuel spenders. And it would amplify the voices of ordinary citizens, a vast majority of whom support government action to address climate change.
The For the People Act also includes provisions that would increase transparency in election spending. It would, for example, require groups that spend significant amounts of money on campaigns to disclose their donors, closing the legal loophole that led to the rise of dark money.
Climate change threatens our democracy
It’s not only that case that a dysfunctional democracy jeopardizes our ability to address the climate crisis. The inverse also holds true: climate change threatens American democracy, including the integrity of the U.S. voting system itself. For example, scholars have documented how during Election Day in November 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina, 80 percent of New Orleans voters (two-thirds of whom were African American) remained displaced and nearly three-quarters of polling places had been damaged or destroyed. Such catastrophic events threaten to undermine voter participation even years after they take place.
The stakes of these intersecting crises are high, but there are solutions. Lawmakers can take note of what the vast majority of Americans support, including bold climate action and the democracy reforms needed to achieve it. And they can discern how a healthier democracy can contribute to a more just and sustainable world.
This analysis originally appeared on the Brennan Center for Justice website on July 1, 2021.
Posted on July 8, 2021
Vote for Brennan Center for Justice, The Fairness Project and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum this July
Every month, CREDO members vote to distribute $150,000 to three incredible progressive causes – and every vote makes a difference. This July, you can support voting rights, economic justice and civil rights by voting to fund the Brennan Center for Justice, The Fairness Project and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
Brennan Center for Justice
American democracy faces unprecedented attacks. The Brennan Center believes the best way to defend our democracy is to strengthen it. The organization works to craft and advance a transformative reform agenda — solutions that aim to make our democracy work for all.
A grant from CREDO will support the Brennan Center for Justice in its advocacy for real democracy reform, fight against voter suppression tactics, and work for a fair justice system — through in-depth research, top-notch litigation, and bold solutions.
The Fairness Project
When politicians fail, The Fairness Project helps grassroots organizations run ballot initiatives to support working families. In just 5 years, the organization has raised wages and brought health care, paid leave and more to over 17.7 million people.
A CREDO grant to The Fairness Project will help empower voters through ballot initiatives to win progressive policy change for economic, racial, and gender justice by raising wages, expanding Medicaid, guaranteeing paid leave, curbing predatory lending, and more.
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum builds power with Asian American and Pacific Islander women and girls to influence critical decisions that affect our lives, our families and our communities. Using a reproductive justice framework, the organization elevates AAPI women and girls to impact policy and drive systemic change in the United States.
Funding from CREDO would allow NAPAWF to further invest in the AAPI women leaders of tomorrow by providing leadership training and coaching on organizing strategy, public speaking, op-ed writing, and more, and to enable them to connect and organize around the issues that impact their lives.
Your vote this month will determine how we divide $150,000 in donations among these three progressive groups. Be sure to cast your vote to support one, two or all three by July 31.