We Need a National Climate Scorecard for State Legislators

By Emmanuel Alcantar, Media & Communications Fellow

Every year, politicians make campaign pledges and hold town halls promising action. As climate change has broken through the national consciousness, finally, some of these promises are about reining in the fossil fuel industry and leading an equitable clean energy transition. But, we’re still not seeing action at the scale or speed necessary. Promises won’t solve climate change. We need action — now. And Americans need an easy way to hold their state legislators accountable for the action they take.

Unfortunately, the task of figuring out who your state and local representatives are and how they are voting on climate can be time-consuming and obscure. Most of the political news we consume on a daily basis focuses on the federal government — even though state and local decision makers make choices every day that more directly affect our lives and our climate. And with over 7,000 state legislators making crucial climate and justice decisions every day across the US, it’s hard to get the big picture on who’s moving the ball forward and who’s holding us back.

We need a centralized climate resource where voters can easily see how their local leaders are doing on climate — and use it to call for action. Stay tuned, because we’re on the case.

Why scorecards? Legislative scores provide voters with a quick and comprehensive account of their representatives’ willingness to vote in the best interests of the constituents they serve over the interests of the fossil-fuel industry. They provide an easy entry point into politics for people who may not always be engaged. Working people are too busy making ends meet in order to follow every single bill that comes to a vote in the legislature.

How can legislative scorecards build momentum for climate action?

Legislative scores give voters the information needed, quickly and easily, to hold their elected officials accountable, or to measure up against the issues they care about before going to vote. At the state and local level, expressing one’s opinion can make an outsized impact:

  • State assembly members often represent between 20,000–100,000 people, versus congressional members, which represent larger areas and closer to 500,000 people. US senators represent their entire states.
  • State legislative offices receive fewer emails, phone calls, letters, and in-person visits than a national representative. As a result, making your voice heard to your state representative and state senator will make a splash, and can have a more direct impact.
  • Your representative represents YOU! At the state and local level, you can form a personal relationship with your representatives.

In addition to the use-cases for individual voters, legislative scorecards are a valuable resource for journalists and media outlets seeking to fact-check legislators’ rhetoric with their actual voting record. And, they can be a helpful too for national organizations seeking to “see the forest for the trees.” In other words, even with 7000+ state legislators in the US, scorecards can help advocates get a snapshot of who’s blocking progress and who’s advancing action on the issues they care about. This can help inform decisions about where to invest resources and support local efforts.

Democracy is a team sport — and tackling the climate crisis will require ALL of us. State legislators have a critical role to play in directing an equitable clean energy transition, and we need to hold them accountable. Legislative scorecards can help us all efficiently find the information we need and take action.

More on this coming soon…

We’re a data-driven climate policy group that helps downballot candidates run, win, and legislate on the climate crisis. https://www.climatecabinetaction.org/