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A power line transformer stands as smoke and flame rise into the air during the Fairview Fire near Hemet, California in Riverside County on September 7, 2022. A ferocious heat wave scorching the western United States could finally begin to wane in the coming days, forecasters said on September 7, but they warned of dangerous fire conditions as howling winds sweep through the bone-dry region. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Nobody Will Forget How Hot It Is When It Comes Time To Vote

The things we've all feared coming to pass in abstract terms are real and are here to stay.

Sara Guillermo

I grew up in the Martinez, California area, and I've never known it this hot. My phone now chimes with flex alerts in the morning, reminding us to cool the house down before four o'clock. That's when our electricity grid stops coping with local air conditioning demand. We're asked to let things warm up. We don't have a choice if we want to keep our lights on.

This generation of young people will suffer most from negative climate impacts. It's why they are turning anxiety into action.

We're getting a glimpse of what catastrophic climate conditions look like. I've had countless conversations over recent weeks with local people who are saying the same thing. They can't remember it being this hot, this many days in a row. The difference is jarring, and it makes people nervous.

The heat dome and record temperatures in California are one thing. The wildfires are another. This time last year, there was an orange cloud of smoke above our neighborhood. And although thankfully, there have been fewer wildfires this year, the stakes get higher every year as destructive wildfires seem to worsen. We're running out of time to contain global warming. It used to be that climate emergencies were a future threat or something that happened in other places. In California, it's become a dominant issue in the run-up to the midterm elections, and it's going to get more pressing from here.

I lead an organization devoted to young women's political leadership and civic engagement. I train young women to run for office and unleash their political power. Even young women who don't see themselves as political engage on issues showing up in their lives. They have a voice, and it matters. More and more, I'm hearing many of them from California say that climate change is a major issue driving their voting. Our broader research shows it to be true across the country too.

This generation of young people will suffer most from negative climate impacts. It's why they are turning anxiety into action. They also see how climate issues hit marginalized people hardest. They see the intersections between climate justice and other forms of injustice. By 2032, Generation Z and Millenials will dominate the electorate, according to research. Politicians who are serious about their prospects in California and beyond, pay heed—you will need to prioritize climate action, not just rhetoric.

We talk about "the singularity" in technology terms, but it's a theory out of science fiction. It's when artificial intelligence machines might become self-aware. Right now, it seems we're reaching a similar tipping point with climate change. The things we've all feared coming to pass in abstract terms are real and are here to stay. We are all realizing we only have a short time left to contain climate change before it defies our control. And it is far worse than science fiction. It is a scientific fact.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Sara Guillermo

Sara Guillermo is the CEO of IGNITE, America’s largest, most diverse organization devoted to young women's political leadership.  

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