THE BLOG

The Green and Growing Latino Vote

07/03/2014 03:33 pm ET | Updated Sep 16, 2014

Our planet's climate is changing, and not for the better. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that human industrial activities have led us to the brink of a global climate crisis. What are the threats we face? Severely rising temperatures that would make outdoor activity unsafe in many areas of the U.S. -- increased frequency of massive hurricanes, floods, prolonged droughts, and crop failures; rising sea levels that threaten to sink our cities. Climate change is scary stuff.

But we have reason to hope. The Latino vote is the game-changer needed to break through the political stalemate on climate change. Poll after poll shows that Latino voters care about green jobs, clean energy, and a host of other sustainable initiatives. A 2012 national survey by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Sierra Club found that nearly 90 percent of Latino voters strongly support clean energy measures and believe that global climate change is happening. A more recent poll found that 86 percent of Latinos support the president taking action to reduce climate change, such as President's Obama's recent executive order that would reduce power plant emissions 30 percent, from 2005 levels, by 2030.

Why are Latinos so ready for action on green initiatives? In part, it is because Latinos are disproportionately injured by the current broken system. Almost half of all Latinos in the U.S. live in one of the top-25 most-ozone-polluted cities in the nation, and this in turn leads to Latino kids facing a 40 percent greater chance of dying from asthma than the general population of children. It's simple: Latino voters care about green energy and climate change because many are experiencing the harmful effects of fossil fuels right now. The 2012 NCLR-Sierra Club poll found that nearly 90 percent of Latino voters are very concerned about the public health effects of fossil fuel production and consumption.

It's true that today we confront a lazy, do-nothing Congress entirely unwilling to act on this urgent issue. But, as demographics continue to shift in the near future, more and more of our elected officials will have to answer to voters who are concerned about climate change. The numbers don't lie. Our community will not to stand idly by and let our children die while the only planet we have becomes uninhabitable.

The Latino vote is not only a bright shade of green. It's also growing at a faster rate than any other ethnic group. Every day, around 2,000 Latino citizens turn 18 and become eligible to register to vote. This number will only increase over the coming decades. Equally important to our national politics is where these new Latino voters will be living. Using Census data, Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project has calculated that between 2012 and 2016 the Latino electorate will increase by two percentage points in three critical swing states - Colorado, Florida, and Nevada -- as well as in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. These numbers are tremendously significant. In a competitive election, two percent of the vote makes all the difference.

In 2012 President Obama, the candidate who promised substantial action to address climate change, won over 71 percent of the Latino vote. As the effects of runaway climate chaos become more and more pronounced, and as the Hispanic electorate grows, the question in 2016 and 2020 won't be whether or not the candidate who champions action on the climate captures the Latino vote. Rather, election observers will be asking just how massive of a majority of Latino voters will endorse that green candidate.