“It’s not getting better.” That was the message of the scientist at the climate change forum this past Saturday in Chatham. While a gross over-simplification of the message delivered by Phil Duffy of Woods Hole Research Center (who, if you have not heard speak in person, you really should), the bottom line is that human activity has altered the climate in ways that are not currently reversible. The combination of the long life of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the amount we have already released through industrial activity have baked significant warming into the climate that cannot be undone. The dual challenges we face is taking action to stop things from getting even worse and mitigating the damage already underway.

Here is a suggestion on how to proceed as a block of voters who care about the climate future of the planet: make candidate positions on climate your primary driver in choosing who you will support. I get it, there are lots of issues to be concerned with. But you as voters must make it clear to candidates that your vote is based on how seriously they address the climate crisis. Go to voter forums and ask candidates where they stand. If you don’t like what you hear, tell them you won’t support them and why. It works.

If you start at the local level, and let’s face it that most of the action on mitigation and adaptation are going to happen as local government projects, your vote really counts. I was elected a selectman by 6 votes. In local scale elections, single votes matter and candidates know it. So, don’t waste your power. Put people in office at the local level who take the science seriously and understand the urgency.

Some select board members become state representatives and senators. Governor Baker was first a selectman before he became Governor. Don’t think for a minute that who you elect locally doesn’t matter. Even if your local select person doesn’t move up the political food chain, they will be deciding what your town does or doesn’t accomplish on climate and water quality. Barnstable voters, you have an election soon, so it is not too late to flex your environmental muscles. The rest of us, we all have local elections in the spring. Go find good candidates now, or better yet, run yourself. Make climate response a key issue in your town.