Environment: Climate Change Affects Every Issue

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Robert Redford is an actor, a director and a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

'It’s not about protecting the climate. It’s about protecting life'

The environment rarely polls high as a concern for the American electorate. It’s usually topped by health care, the economy, national ­security—all of which are valid concerns.

But the largest environmental ­issue—­climate change—is altering our voting landscape.

There may be no other voting issue that touches so many voters. Are you a health care voter? The mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue and Zika thrive in a warmer world. Climate change is heating our atmosphere. National-­security voter? The American military and security establishment is already studying models of how climate change will exacerbate resource conflicts around the world. Religious-­values voter? The worst effects of climate change will be felt by the poor, the dispossessed, those who most need our charity. An economy voter? Clean energy and the technologies that make it possible are the growth industries of the future.

Or maybe you don’t vote on specific issues. Maybe you vote thinking mostly about your kids: you want to make sure they can grow up in a world that at least resembles the one we grew up in. Then the single most powerful vote you can log in 2016 in any election is for a leader who is adamantly and authentically determined to combat human-­made climate change.

Some of the most important changes are happening not at the national level but in state and local government. Our job as citizens is to support the leaders at each of those levels who are making climate change a central part of their platform.

Hillary Clinton has promised to continue the good work President Obama has done on climate, including supporting U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement. Donald Trump has given every indication that he’ll stop and even reverse any progress we’ve made. We should weigh their words and actions soberly.

Because it’s not about protecting the climate. It’s about protecting life. Yours. Mine. Our kids’. Their kids’.

Redford is an actor, a director and a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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