TAMPA, Fla. — A new nonprofit focused on changing "the politics of climate" in battleground states ahead of the 2020 elections has set its sights on Florida, along with seven other states.

What You Need To Know

  • Climate Power 2020 formed by Center for American Progress Action Fund, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club

  • Groups polling shows climate messaging a strong motivator for younger voters

  • Group will also campaign in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

  • More 2020 Elections stories

Florida has been considered ground zero for the impacts of climate change in recent years, but there hasn’t been much talk about that recently as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Enter Climate Power 2020, a 501(c)(4) non-profit group that organizers describe as an environmental campaign that will focus on climate change politics in the Sunshine State and seven other battleground states going into the fall election.

Organizers say that they are focusing on Florida because of its obvious importance in the 2020 election, but also because of the high concentration of Latino and younger voters, both of whom the group says are most motivated by climate change political messaging. 

“Our polling has shown that it’s a pivotal issue that really helps connect with LatinX voters, with young voters and persuadable Republican-leaning suburban women,” says spokesman Adrian Eng-Gastelum. 

The issue of climate change and sea-level rise is already a serious concern in Florida.

Coastal flooding has already caused real estate values to drop an estimated $5 billion, and that number could rise to as much as $80 billion in the next 30 years, according to a report released last month by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Climate Power 2020 was created and is being funded by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. The group intends to issue press releases and have their advisory board members and surrogates reach out directly to the media through Instagram Live videos and call-ins to radio and television stations.

Eng-Gastelum most recently worked on the presidential campaign of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and says many of his colleagues worked on the presidential campaigns of Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders over the past year. 

“We’re trying to bring a lot of that experience to this world of climate politics so we can really make an issue that drives turnout,” he says. 

Among those serving on the Climate Power 2020 advisory board include a who’s-who of Democratic Party stalwarts, including John Kerry, Tom Steyer, Stacey Abrams, Harry Reid, Samantha Power and Carol Browner, who headed the Florida Dept. of Environmental Regulation before becoming Bill Clinton’s administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years.

Environmentalists in Florida have decried a lack of action in Tallahassee when it comes to combating climate change, but there was some movement on the issue during the past legislative session. 

The new change in tone began when Gov. Ron DeSantis hired Dr. Julie Nesheiwat to serve as the state’s first chief Resilience Officer last summer. That position is now vacant, however, after Nesheiwat left in February to serve as a homeland security adviser in the Trump administration.

Hillsborough County GOP state Senator Tom Lee described the state’s work on climate change as a “lost decade” last fall, leading the state Legislature to pass their first-ever climate change related legislation earlier this year.

The measure bars the use of tax dollars on any public construction project in a coastal region until specified studies demonstrate that it will be safe from flooding caused by rising seas.

In addition to Florida, Climate Power 2020 will also campaign this year in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.