Efforts to nudge the nation away from burning fossil fuels and toward harnessing renewable sources of energy were rejected by voters Tuesday across a swath of resource-rich states in the West.
The failure of environmental ballot measures in Arizona, Colorado — and the likely defeat of a proposal to impose fees on carbon emissions in Washington state — underscores the difficulty of tackling a global problem like climate change at the state and local level.
Even as a United Nations-backed panel of scientists recently warned that the world has barely a decade to radically cut its emissions of greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, the Trump administration has been busy expanding oil and gas drilling and rolling back Obama-era efforts to mitigate climate change. Environmental advocates and Democratic lawmakers have placed much hope in state and local governments to counter those policies.
But while Tuesday saw the election of numerous candidates dedicated to climate action, individual ballot measures aimed at the same goal largely floundered.
Voters in Arizona, one of the nation's most sun-soaked states, shot down a measure that would have accelerated its shift toward generating electricity from sunlight. Residents in oil- and gas-rich Colorado defeated a measure to sharply limit drilling on state-owned land.
Even in the solidly blue state of Washington, initial results looked grim for perhaps the most consequential climate-related ballot measure in the country this fall: A statewide initiative that would have imposed a first-in-the-nation fee on emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases that drive global warming.
While voters in King County, home to Seattle, turned out heavily in favor of the measure, residents across the rest of the state largely opposed it.
One bright spot for environmental advocates came in Nevada, where voters appeared poised to pass a measure similar to the one Arizonans rejected. It would require utilities to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030. The proposal was leading handily with most votes tallied Wednesday. But before the measure could become law, it has to survive a second vote in 2020.
Marijuana initiatives appeared on ballots in four states Tuesday. In Michigan and North Dakota, initiatives gave voters the opportunity to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Missouri and Utah, voters chose whether to allow people who are sick to use the drug for medical reasons.
Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the 10th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to allow adults to buy and possess the drug in small amounts for recreational use.
A 2017 Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans — 64 percent — supported legalization of marijuana in some form. It remains illegal at the federal level.
But in North Dakota, 59.5 percent of voters gave a thumbs down to Measure 3, which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for people who are 21 or older. It would have also established a process to expunge convictions involving marijuana.
Medical marijuana was also on the ballot in Utah, after the Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates last month to back a deal that would legalize it in the conservative state.
Voters in the state approved Proposition 2, which legalizes the use of medical marijuana for people with qualifying illnesses.
Missouri voted in favor of an amendment that will legalize medical marijuana with a 4 percent tax. Revenue will be dedicated to health care services for veterans.
Voters in three states overwhelmingly chose to overhaul how legislative and congressional districts are drawn, stripping a traditionally partisan exercise from politicians while aiming to create a more level playing field based instead on geography and demographics.
Colorado and Michigan will create independent commissions to decide the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts after the 2020 Census.
A measure in Utah that would create an independent redistricting commission remained too close to call.
The New York Times contributed to this report.