To: Interested Parties
From: John Tynan, Executive Director, Conservation Voters of South Carolina
Date: February 24, 2020
Re: Ahead of South Carolina primary, climate is top issue for voters and candidates
The South Carolina Democratic presidential primary is upon us, and addressing climate change is a top issue for South Carolina voters, according to a January poll by Conservation Voters of South Carolina and Audubon Action Fund. In fact, the majority of South Carolina voters on both sides of the aisle view climate as a serious problem and want action – the poll found that 64% of all South Carolinians think climate change is a serious problem. In addition, there is strong support for bold solutions – by a 2 to 1 margin, voters from both sides of the aisle support a move to 100% clean energy by 2050 (50-24), with Democrats overwhelming supporting this goal with 71% support.
Hailed as the “First in the South” primary, the South Carolina primary serves as an important test of support from African American voters, who make up a majority of the Democratic vote in the state. Among African American voters in South Carolina, climate remains a top concern. Climate change is seen as a serious problem by 89% of African American voters with 72% also supporting a move to 100% clean energy by 2050.
These South Carolina findings follow the trend of entrance and exit polling in the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary, and Nevada caucuses, where climate change was a top-tier issue for Democratic voters and caucus-goers.
Just four years after there was not a single general election debate question about climate policy, the majority of the 2020 Democratic field prioritized talking to South Carolina voters about their climate and clean energy plans as they crisscrossed the state. In fact, all of the leading candidates have released comprehensive plans to combat the climate crisis that are based on science, rooted in equity, and prioritize justice.
Climate change is clearly front and center in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary as these recent Palmetto State focused headlines illustrate:
- The Post & Courier’s Chloe Johnson: Martin Luther King III urges voting on environmental issues in N. Charleston event
- The Post & Courier’s Bo Peterson: Sea turtles nesting earlier in SC and Southeast as climate change takes hold
- Slate’s Julia Craven: What Are the Democratic Candidates’ Climate Proposals for Black America? Primary season and climate crisis are both coming for South Carolina.
- The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis: From afterthought to emergency: Climate change now a key issue for Democratic voters
- Gizmodo’s Yessenia Funes and Terrell Jermaine Starr: An HBCU Is Hosting the First Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice
- The Times and Democrat’s Bradley Harris: ‘Threat to humanity’: Candidates discuss environmental issues at S.C. State forum
- The Post & Courier’s Bo Peterson and Mikaela Porter: Charleston and the South Carolina coast flooded record 89 times in 2019
- The State’s Sammy Fretwell: As heat rises, SC watches quietly. Will state suffer from lack of climate action?
- The Post & Courier’s Chloe Johnson: Climate change, rising seas promise to affect how SC cities borrow money
- The Post & Courier’s David Wren:Climate change could impact routing of cargo headed to Port of Charleston
- The Sun News’ Tyler Fleming: Floods and fires: South Carolina faces ‘elevated’ risk from climate change, study says
- The Post & Courier’s Tony Bartleme and Chloe Johnson: Facing dire climate threats, Charleston has done little to reduce its carbon footprint
- The Post & Courier’s Chloe Johnson: A youth-led protest in Charleston urges action on climate change in SC
- Charleston City Paper has asked candidates about what they would do to address climate change’s impacts, particularly for poor and rural residents of coastal communities. Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren responded.
In early 2019, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) – a national partner of CVSC – launched a $3.1 million effort, Change the Climate 2020, to ensure the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee is committed to immediate action on climate. In South Carolina, CVSC staff and volunteers have attended more than 50 candidate events and asked more than 20 climate questions directly of candidates. In other early states, LCV staff and volunteers have attended more than 100 candidate events and asked more than 60 climate questions directly of candidates. Check out videos of LCV and CVSC interactions with candidates here, and for everything the candidates have said and done on climate change (with a filter for SC-specific news) visit changetheclimate2020.com.
Highlights: Candidates prioritizing climate in the lead-up to South Carolina:
Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Biden has campaigned in the state on pushing for us “to be a net exporter of the green economy” and committing to make “his first move as President would be to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.”
- Responding to the Charleston City Paper’s “three questions” series, Biden cited South Carolina’s vulnerability to climate change: “While everyone is feeling the effects of climate change, in the Lowcountry you’re on the front lines”
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Biden’s ‘Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice’
Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg
- Bloomberg is not on the ballot in South Carolina but climate remains a central issue in his campaign’s message.
- Bloomberg has also spent more than $800,000 on ads in the state that discuss his record of fighting to closecoal plants
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Bloomberg’s Plan for 100% Clean Power
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Buttigieg has campaigned in the state saying, “We have to take on climate change as a national project, something that summons the energies of every American. … Everybody has to be part of the solution if we’re going to tackle climate change before it tackles us,” and he has called climate “the security issue of our time.”
- In his response to the Charleston City Paper, Buttigieg pledged that his administration “will work toward a net-zero emissions society by 2050.”
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Buttigieg’s Mobilizing America to Combat Climate Change
Senator Amy Klobuchar
- At a stop in South Carolina, Klobuchar “homed in on climate change and its economic toll on the country.”
- Klobuchar promised legislation with “massive investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate-resilient infrastructure, climate research and innovation, rural energy development, and better, greener transportation” in her Charleston City Paper response.
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Klobuchar’s Plan to Tackle the Climate Crisis
Senator Bernie Sanders
- Sanders held a climate town hall in the state last summer and warned “a good part of Charleston may end up being underwater” if we do not address climate change.
- In his answer to the Charleston City Paper’s three questions, Sanders said his Green New Deal would “invest $16.3 trillion over 10 years to meet the targets the scientists tell us are necessary to avert climate disaster.”
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Sanders’ 2020 Green New Deal
- Steyer has hosted campaign events powered by solar panels in the state and attributed his rise in popularity among African American voters to his focus on urgent climate action.
- Steyer’s response to the Charleston City Paper promised that he would “declare climate a national emergency and address the effects of climate change on the poor.”
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Steyer’s Justice-Centered Climate Plan
Senator Elizabeth Warren
- At the Environmental Justice Forum, Warren “didn’t shy away from how the environment is directly related to other issues that people of color in the U.S. face—like housing” and “the biggest applause she received” at an event earlier in 2019 followed a commitment to stop future offshore drilling.
- Warren told the Charleston City Paper “Climate change presents an urgent threat, but also presents the chance to rebuild our economy with 100% clean energy and to create millions of good, union jobs in the process.”
- Reminder: LCV’s take on Warren’s 100 percent Clean Energy for America plan