5 reasons Election Day 2017 was a win for climate action

Keith Gaby

Exactly 364 days after Donald Trump won the presidency, the electoral backlash arrived. And the results from Election Night 2017 appear to be good news for the environment.

Here are five encouraging takeaways from Boomerang Tuesday:

1. Suburban, pro-environment turnout surges

The night was all about voters motivated to reject Trumpism in its many forms, particularly in suburban and exurban areas.

In swing Loudoun County, Virginia, for instance, Trump-aligned gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie – who as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2014 won the county – lost by more than 20,000 votes. The switch was probably due less to Gillespie losing his voters than to a huge turnout from energized anti-Trumpers.

These voters have a lot of complaints, but polls show the environment is among Trump's three weakest issues.

Swing suburban areas are full of middle-of-the-road voters who worry about their children being exposed to more air pollution, water pollution and toxic waste because of severe environmental program cuts. They came out in force Tuesday.

2. Renewed climate focus in NJ, Washington state

Voters in Washington state and New Jersey made choices that will likely result in tangible climate action in the next few months.

New Jersey, a founding member of the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, dropped out under Gov. Chris Christie. Now Governor-elect Phil Murphy, who campaigned on a platform to push the state toward 100-percent clean energy by 2050, has promised that his state will quickly rejoin.

RGGI has cut millions of tons of pollution and raised billions for state governments, while electricity prices have dropped. Rejoining the climate pact is so popular, in fact, that the Republican candidate for governor vowed to do the same.

In the State of Washington, a pro-environment state senate candidate prevailed after oil interests spent millions trying to defeat her – flipping control of that chamber. This will help Gov. Jay Inslee, one of the country's most passionate advocates for climate action, to accelerate greenhouse gas reductions.

3. Voters respond to climate issues

St. Petersburg, Florida, the heart of the swing "I-4 Corridor" in the biggest swing state, saw an upset victory by a mayoral candidate who made his opponent's denial of climate science  a central issue.

Voters in Miami also passed a climate measure by an unexpectedly large margin.

New Jerseyans, meanwhile, approved a pro-environment ballot measure in a landslide.

4. More millennials cast ballots

Turnout was strong among younger people, too. In Virginia, turnout among 18-29-year-olds rose by nearly one-third over the last gubernatorial election.

If anyone still doubts that millennials will be a huge force in 2018 and 2020, they're ignoring the evidence.

And because millennials are probably the most environmentally conscious citizens in our nation's history, getting their vote means more support for action on climate change and other critical issues.

5. Voters send a strong message to both parties

It wasn't just that President Trump's preferred candidate lost in Virginia, it was a shocking and broad electoral drubbing. The legislative results were called the biggest sweep since 1899.

That massive shift, along with progressive victories from New Hampshire to Georgia, will send a strong message to both parties.

Democrats may be encouraged to support bolder environmental policies. Republicans, fearful that the wave will hit them in 2018, would also be smart to try to win back suburban voters by joining the growing bipartisan call for solutions.

Yes, polluter agenda still rules – but there's hope

Election Day 2017 doesn't mean everything is fine.

Scott Pruitt is still head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working to undermine its historic mission to protect public health.

And Trump is still pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, making us the only country in the world on the outside now that even Syria has joined. But the voters have made a strong statement.

As former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday night, quoting Winston Churchill, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

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