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Climate change is not the main motivator in elections, but it can influence key races

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Climate is changing. All current presidential candidates can agree on that.

But that's where the similarities end.

In some key swing states and congressional races, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on this issue could be significant enough to tip the scales in November 2024.

During the first Republican primary debates on August 23, moderators tried hard to get clear answers to the question: "Do you believe that human behavior causes climate change?"

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Businessman Vivek Ramaswami generally rejected climate change policy, calling the "climate change agenda" a "hoax." Other candidates believe that the country should take action, but this issue takes a back seat compared to the economy and immigration.

Republican presidential candidates 2024: a list of those running or considering running ELECTIONS Republican presidential candidates 2024: a list of those running or considering running The vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. Currently, China produces the highest level of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, followed by the United States and India. However, the U.S. undeniably has the highest historical contribution to climate change and significantly higher emissions per capita.

When Republicans insist on addressing climate change, they argue that the main focus should be on pressuring China and India to clean up their acts. Most Republican platforms also call for increased domestic energy production through the expansion of nuclear power and natural gas, while still relying on fossil fuels. However, they oppose Biden-era regulations and subsidies aimed at stimulating clean energy production and electric vehicle manufacturing.

Biden and his supporters began their campaign by promoting investments made in the Inflation Reduction Act, which, despite its name, is actually a comprehensive climate law aimed at promoting the transition to clean energy. However, some Democratic-leaning voters say Biden hasn't done enough to reduce emissions.

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Overall, climate change is not a driving force in American elections at the macro level. However, it is an issue that concerns young voters the most, regardless of party affiliation. People of color, who often suffer the most from the consequences of climate change, and women also consistently argue that this issue should be a priority.

Regardless of whether these demographic data prove true, it may matter in states where victories are decided on the margins.

Where the candidates stand Graphic reading "Is climate change real and caused by human activity," listing the positions of several Republican presidential candidates. Alison Hёrt / NPR For over a decade, the Republican Party has largely rejected scientific data on climate change or resisted actions to limit its consequences. Some climate-conscious Republicans view any acknowledgment of the problem by their presidential candidates as a sign of progress for the party.

For more on what candidates think about climate change and what they want to do about it, you can read here.

By the numbers 80% of Democrats say addressing climate change should be a top priority, even at the risk of slowing down the economy.

Meanwhile, according to an August NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 72% of Republicans say the economy should be a top priority, even at the risk of ignoring climate change.

Key Reading Here's how Americans feel about climate change People are the driving force behind global warming. That means we can change course. A year after the passage of Biden's landmark climate law, it has become a driving force for the energy transition in the U.S. But key obstacles remain. The Biden administration is launching a "green New Deal." But not THAT "Green New Deal." Important listening Climate-minded voters have mixed feelings about Biden's record (NPR Politics podcast) President Biden: Climate champion or friend of fossil fuels? (Indicator from Planet Money) This summer, three letters caused a real stir among Republican lawmakers: the fight over ESG (NPR Politics Podcast) The Biden administration has promised to take climate seriously, but is it too late for all this to happen? (Think about it)