Tropical Weather North Carolina

A couple walks along a road in Buxton flooded with seawater brought by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

I ran for the N.C. House to fight for the future of our great state — for the future of my three children and all Tar Heel children. One of their greatest threats is the human and economic costs of climate change. We must work together — across partisan and geographic differences — to protect our future.

In North Carolina, we know all too well the havoc that extreme weather can wreak on our coasts and crops. New data released by One Country Project and Third Way shows we’re not alone — rural Americans very clearly acknowledge the reality of climate change and support action to stop it. They need to know that they are part of the solution and that their perspective matters in Washington and state capitals across the country.

The poll shows that a majority of rural Americans acknowledge that climate change is real, which tracks with my own experiences talking with many of those in our state. While the eye-popping cost of protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels grabs headlines, our agricultural sector is already feeling the heat from man-made climate change.

Seemingly nonstop rainfall has affected some farmers’ ability to grow crops and graze cattle. Rising temperatures may threaten some crops entirely, putting entire sectors of the agricultural economy under siege as once-reliable crops are no longer feasible to grow during prolonged seasons that continue to get hotter each year. In 2017, North Carolina farms had nearly $12 billion in sales — we must continue to thrive with a strong agricultural economy. With 54% of those polled saying climate change is having a serious effect right now, it is past the time to discuss whether we should act on climate change — we must — but rather how.

Here, the One Country Project/Third Way poll also offers insight from rural communities that are at the forefront of the battle with climate change. Fifty-nine percent of those polled responded to the climate call to action by embracing research and investment. These strategies will not only allow us to combat the climate crisis effectively but also position America on the cutting edge of technology and bring jobs to an economy under threat by global shifts in climate.

Our job in the North Carolina legislature is to represent the best interests of the hardworking people across the state. But the One Country Project/Third Way poll suggests rural communities across the country feel ignored. Despite the 71% of rural voters who say their perspective on climate change is valuable, most rural Americans say they believe their views are ignored when it comes to policy decisions on climate change. The feeling of being ignored applies to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and even the president.

There is no doubt the Democratic Party wants to lead on the issue of climate change, and we need rural voters to do so. In formulating policies to save the human race from climate change, Democrats should appeal to North Carolina communities that are already on the front line of climate change by offering practical solutions — like home weatherization and renewable energy development — and avoid the lofty, abstract and detached sermons so common in the Washington climate change dialogue.

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Democratic state Rep. Ashton Clemmons represents the 57th District, which includes part of Guilford County, in the General Assembly. She serves on the board of One Country Project.

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