We get it.

Just the mention of climate change can be overwhelming. You feel as if you shouldn’t have slept through sophomore geology.

So we’ve put together a little Q&A. We promise you won’t need a masters to figure it out. But you need to know why it’s important the candidates you support support 100% clean energy.

1. Let’s start at the beginning: What is it anyway?

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. Right now, we’re experiencing global warming– the average surface temperatures on earth are rising. The overwhelming body of scientific evidence points to the human use of fossil fuel as the primary cause of the temperature rise. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, gas—releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases into the atmosphere. The gases trap heat. The temperature goes up. The consequences are all too real. In a world where climate change is not addressed, we would see more illness and disease, costly storm damage, a weakened economy and job losses.

2. How much is the planet heating up?

Fortunately, we have been taking the planet’s temperature since the end of the 19th century, so we know the planet it getting hotter, fast. The planet has heated up about 1.25 C since the Industrial Revolution when we started burning coal and oil at scale. That might not sound like a lot, but as an average across the planet it is actually a big number. It explains why glaciers are melting and why seas are rising at a quickening pace. Still doesn’t seem like a lot?

The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day. Justin Gillis
Did You Know?
The Republican party of Donald Trump won't just be bad for our climate, they'll be bad for our future and our democracy.

3. So are we cooked?

No. Not if we act. Scientists believe we can stop the worst effects of climate change if we keep the average surface temperatures on the earth from rising by less than 2 degrees C. To do that, we’ll need to transition to 100% clean energy and fossil fuels will need to stay in the ground. It’s significant change. But c’mon, this is the planet we’re talking about. We can do it. In 2015, more renewable energy came online than ever. Costs for producing solar and wind power hit record lows. And last December, nearly 200 countries reached consensus in Paris on the global need to cut greenhouse gases.

Plus, there’s this sign of hope from the beleaguered planet. Just last month, scientists reported that the hole in the Antarctic’s ozone layer has shown signs that it’s healing. Although the improvement has been slight so far, it is an indication the treaty signed back in 1987 that phased out the use of chemicals knowns as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs is working. Ozone, a layer high in the atmosphere, protects life from ultraviolet radiation. The layer was under siege from CFCs, chemicals used for decades as refrigerants or propellants in ordinary products like hair spray. So treaties, laws and the people who support them make a difference.

4. Why do some people question climate change?

By training or habit, some people focus only on the short-term and have difficulty seeing long-term consequences. But in Washington and in state capitals across the country, there’s a clear political pattern to climate change denial: most lawmakers who question climate change are conservative Republicans who have a long history of association with the fossil fuel industry. Big Oil and Big Coal spend heavily on campaigns and, as a result, exert a disproportionate influence over votes in Congress. Since 1999, more than 1200 climate-specific bills have been introduced in Congress. The vast majority of them failed, blocked by Republican-controlled majorities.

5. What can we do about climate change?

Everyone can take steps in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprints, from the kind of light bulbs you use to how much you drive.

But the most important thing you can do is vote. To affect the scale of change, we need laws at the state and federal level to drive a transition to clean energy and to help communities affected by the change. To do that, we need to elect climate champions.

Democrats have raised their hands. As a party, they have embraced the need for 100% clean energy. In stark contrast there’s Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Trump knows climate change is an urgent threat. That’s why he’s building a wall to protect his golf resort from rising sea levels. But since he can afford to protect his own property, he doesn’t care what climate change would do to everyone else. Among other things, he has vowed to renege on the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan. The Republican Party of Donald Trump won’t just be bad for our climate, they’ll be bad for our future and our democracy.

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