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Climate Change Becoming a Defining Issue for Young Voters Nationwide

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The politics of climate change is shifting, and politicians -- particularly Republicans -- are going to need to make some quick decisions. Whether it's record heat waves, wildfires, floods or storms, the impacts of climate change are taking hold nearly every day. Our way of life is being violently transformed, and Americans are taking notice, especially younger voters whose future is at stake. And this could have a big impact at the ballot box.

LCV recently released a bipartisan poll showing that young voters across the country are concerned about climate change and support federal action to address it. It also showed that young people soundly reject the false choice between economic prosperity and action on climate change that many climate change deniers hide behind.

And a solid majority in our poll said they are willing to hold accountable those who ignore the problem, going so far as to describe climate change deniers as "ignorant" and "out-of-touch." In fact, 73 percent of young voters said they are less likely to vote for someone who opposes President Obama's landmark plan on climate change.

These finding aren't just numbers on a page, they could have a dramatic impact on Election Day. The simple reality is that it's becoming harder than ever to win elections without the support of young voters. They're in every congressional district and state across the country, and extreme positions like denying climate change will put candidates squarely at odds with this growing electoral force.

Despite all this, too many Republican leaders continue to turn their backs on science in an effort to gain favor with the fossil fuel industry. That's why virtually all Republican House leaders deny the science of climate change, including Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. They've pushed an agenda over the last few years that hasn't just blocked every effort to take action on climate change, but also demonized clean energy, an industry that voters view as the future of American energy production.

The fossil fuel industry has spent millions propping up Republican leadership, so we know they won't change their views anytime soon. That leaves rank and file Republicans in Congress with a choice: they can continue to follow their leadership and deny the science of climate change and risk being viewed by voters as "ignorant" and "out-of-touch," or they can start to help find ways to deal with climate change, a threat that is already too real for most Americans.

We've already seen that you can run and win on the issue of climate change. Last year, we started a new electoral program called the Flat Earth Five. This program targeted five incumbent climate change deniers at the ballot box, and was the first time we campaigned against candidates specifically because of their denial of climate change. We spent more than $3 million in those five races, and four of those climate change deniers -- Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle, Dan Lungren, Francisco Canseco and Joe Walsh -- were defeated in November. And just this summer, Ed Markey, whom National Journal dubbed the "first real climate candidate," campaigned extensively on climate change and was elected to the U.S. Senate with support from LCV.

Our poll should be a wake-up call to climate change deniers in Congress and candidates nationwide. As we continue to make climate change an issue in races up and down the ballot, it's becoming politically toxic to turn your back on basic science and dispute the findings of 97 percent of scientists on climate change. Denying climate change isn't just bad policy, it's increasingly becoming bad politics.

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