Vote as if your life depends on it, because this time it does

September 11, 2020 7:00 am
climate heat air

Excessive heat fueled by climate change contributes to drought, wildfires, crop failures, and impaired human health. Getty Images

Whom you vote for matters. Your life and the life of your family depend on you voting for candidates who listen to experts and use science to make decisions.

This has never been more obvious or painful than now, as our suffering and dying from COVID-19 seems unending.

We are in this predicament because of the spectacular failure of President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis to listen to medical professionals and follow their recommendations.

President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Governor’s office photo

Trump and DeSantis have also ignored 97 percent of climate scientists, NASA, and the military’s warnings about the threat of climate change to our communities — they’ve put our health and safety at risk and left a tsunami of misery lapping at our doors as our planet warms.

In 2006, I testified before the Florida Legislature on the need to prepare a climate action plan and explained the problems Florida would experience with climate change, including heat waves. One legislator asked me how many people were dying in Florida from heat waves and I gave him the number, which wasn’t very large. He used this as an excuse to ignore the entire message. He made a big mistake.

He dismissed the reality of climate change and its danger to Florida families at a time when we had the leeway to address it, when we could have avoided billions of dollars in economic damage, and when the costs to address the crisis would have been more manageable.

Now, 14 years later, I read in The Washington Post that an international coalition assembled by the Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center along with 30 global partners has issued a statement that their number-one priority is to name and rank heat waves as we do hurricanes. They call heat waves “silent killers.” Heat waves now kill more people in the United States. than hurricanes and flood-related deaths combined.

By mid-century, heat waves are expected to affect more than 3.5 billion people globally as they grow in frequency, duration, and intensity. And, here in Florida, we’re dealing with these costly, deadly high temperatures firsthand.

The Everglades
The Everglades. Photo by National Park Service.

Few tourists enjoy standing in long lines in the blazing sun at Mouse Land or to see Flipper. Kayaking and fishing on the super-heated Gulf of Mexico is already a miserable experience. Touring the Everglades at any time in the summer is on the bottom of my list. Even a picnic or tent camping in the summer in Florida are experiences to be avoided.

Beyond the threat to our outdoor comfort is the threat to our families’ health and well-being. Extreme heat, like so many symptoms of the climate crisis, is especially harmful for communities of color and low-income people. Our country’s long history of environmental racism means that people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to deadly heat on the job and at home.

A 2019 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Killer Heat in the United States,” says that the nation will increasingly face extremely hot days along with deaths from killer heat waves if carbon emissions aren’t reduced. Predictably, Florida will experience some of its hottest days on record.

Even for those who don’t work outdoors and who probably won’t die of heat stroke, the heat will get you. It will exacerbate health conditions, like asthma and other respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, and even mental health problems.

The good news? We still have a small window of time to take ambitious action and prevent this rise of extreme heat. And there is only one thing standing between you and addressing the climate crisis — your elected officials.

Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

The time of reckoning is now. The November election is our last, best chance to elect a president who will combat the climate crisis and put our country on a path to a just and equitable clean-energy future.

To protect the health and safety of our families and communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities, we must elect pro-environment candidates up and down the ballot.

The League of Conservation Voters is a national organization committed to electing candidates who will fight for people and the planet. Check out the League’s Florida affiliate, Florida Conservation Voters, for their fair and honest candidate recommendations at

Don’t give away your future. Vote for candidates who will address the climate crisis.

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Pam McVety
Pam McVety

Pam McVety, a biologist and Florida native, worked in executive positions for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for 30 years, where she dealt with water management, marine resources, ecosystem management, and coastal zone management. Since retiring in 2003, she has lectured and written about climate change. She is an amicus party to the children’s lawsuit on climate.