All over the planet, elections are taking center stage this year, as some 4 billion people across more than 50 countries head to the polls — roughly half the world’s population. In the US, March 5 marks what’s known as Super Tuesday, when the greatest number of states hold primary elections and caucuses to determine the presidential candidates come November.

You could be forgiven for thinking that climate change is high on the list of election issues, or for assuming that Americans who care about it will be running, not walking, to the ballot box to vote. The US endured a whopping 28 disasters costing $1 billion or more in damages in 2023, which was also the hottest year in recorded history. This year is shaping up to match or exceed that record.

But while polling shows that many registered voters in the US consider the climate a top issue, there’s also evidence that few likely voters — people who have voted previously — identify climate change or other environmental issues as their main voting priority. In other words: “There are tens of millions of dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists out there who just aren’t voting,” says Nathaniel Stinnett, founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project, a Boston-based nonprofit. “The climate movement doesn’t have a persuasion problem as much as we have a turnout problem.”

Stinnett started the Environmental Voter Project in 2017 to tackle this disconnect. The group focuses on “identifying people who care deeply about climate and the environment and aren’t voting, and then [turning] them into better voters,” he says.

In the run-up to Super Tuesday, EVP surveyed voters to isolate those who prioritize environmental issues. Then the group combed through public data to find others like them, ultimately building what’s called a “predictive model” to identify all likely climate voters in a state. Finally, they looked at voter records to suss out which of those people voted in the past. (Whether someone voted is public record; who they voted for is not.) Across the 19 states in which the nonprofit has staff and volunteers, it has identified 4.8 million registered voters who care about the climate but aren’t a sure thing at the ballot box.

EVP’s goal is to hit every one of those people with get-out-the-vote messaging, using a mix of canvassing, digital ads, mailers and phone calls. So far this year, they’ve made 200,000 phone calls regarding 15 different elections in 14 states, including New Hampshire and Arizona (which already held their primaries), and six states with Super Tuesday elections (Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia).

These are people “who don’t need issue-education messaging; who don’t need to be persuaded to care about climate — they just need to vote,” Stinnett says. The organization’s messaging doesn’t endorse any specific candidates or lobby for particular policies.

EVP isn’t alone in highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis ahead of the election, though it may be one of few organizations not putting a thumb on the scale for a particular party. The Sierra Club and the political arms of other major environmental groups — LCV Action Fund, NextGen PAC and the NRDC Action Fund — have endorsed Joe Biden’s re-election bid.

While polling shows that Democrats and Independents tend to support climate action, Republicans are far less likely to. The Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark piece of legislation with multiple climate-related provisions, passed in 2022 over the objections of many on the right. Some of its policies, including tax credits for EVs, are ripe targets for gutting if Donald Trump wins in November. The Republican frontrunner has promised as much on the campaign trail; his main opponent, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, has been relatively quiet on the subject.

The bottom line is climate change “is just a non-issue in the Republican primaries,” says Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.

Climate change hasn’t been a major issue in the Democratic primaries either, perhaps because Biden is widely expected to win the nomination. But there is broad consensus that the president will need climate voters if he wants to secure a victory, which means educating them on his climate record. Danielle Deiseroth, executive director of the progressive think tank Data for Progress, predicts green groups will help with this; she anticipates a “huge onslaught of advertising” targeting the Democratic base on climate change.

Time is of the essence, though — in part because there’s less election messaging to compete with right now. “The simple truth is it’s a lot easier and a lot cheaper to turn a non-voter into a new voter this spring and summer than it will be this fall,” Stinnett says.

Once the votes are cast, EVP also has a plan to evaluate some of its efforts. When the group identifies a pool of possible voters, it often splits that pool into two cohorts: those it will reach out to, and a control cohort that receives no outreach. Post-election, the nonprofit can check on how many more people voted from the outreach cohort as compared to the control cohort.

Since 2020, Stinnett says EVP has been able to show that it is “solely responsible” for boosting turnout by as much as 1.8 percentage points over the control group in individual states when it comes to general elections, and 3.6 percentage points in primaries. “These are big numbers in politics,” he says. “Ask Donald Trump how big a deal 1.8 percentage points is.”

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