If it seems like the consequences of climate change are getting worse every year, it’s because they are. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. It’s happening right before our eyes, whether it’s rising sea levels, out-of-control forest fires stemming from heat waves and longer periods of drought, or more frequent and more intense tornadoes and storms like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. These extreme weather events aren’t just costly, all too often they are deadly. We cannot afford for our lawmakers to kick the can down the road any further.
President Obama is not waiting around for Congress to act. Why should he? Republicans in Congress refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community. They don’t care that 97% of peer-reviewed climate science papers have concluded climate change is happening and that it is man-made.
The President has put forth a common sense plan to protect future generations by setting the first-ever national carbon emissions limits for America’s existing power plants. Right now, power plants are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air, but under this new plan we could see a 30% reduction in pollution from the power sector by 2030. That’s the same as taking nearly two-thirds of all cars and trucks in America off the road in terms of carbon pollution.
The plan will also leave us breathing cleaner air by cutting down smog and soot by 25%. In the first year alone of these new rules, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks could be avoided.
Military researchers have also deemed climate change a threat to our national security. Droughts will cause tensions as food and water become scarcer. Rising sea levels are displacing populations and threatening food supplies in coastal regions, which could eventually result in a huge influx of refugees.
But Republicans prefer to keep their heads in the sand. They are the Flat Earth Society of the 21st Century. When confronted on their do-nothing position, they often shrug and say ‘I’m no scientist’. And yet they remain 100% certain that we should ignore 97% of the scientific community. It may be because Big Oil and other Big Pollution interests like the Koch brothers have given Republicans hundreds of millions of reasons to feign or maintain ignorance to the detriment of our environment, health and national security. And now the Republican presidential field is feeling the heat for their devil-may-care-attitude toward climate change since Pope Francis released his official encyclicalcalling the looming environmental devastation a ‘moral issue’ that can no longer be ignored by politicians and policy makers — a very big deal.
The GOP didn’t listen to former U.S. Generals and Admirals who warned climate change is a serious and immediate national security threat. They’ve blown off the 97 percent of the scientific community that agree that climate change is real and man-made. They choose to ignore the growing chorus of economists that say the President’s carbon action plan is good for the economy and jobs. And so far, the moral appeal by the Pope and many other faith leaders that our political leaders need to be better stewards of the planet has been met with indifference from those too busy chasing Koch money. What will it take to convince the Grand Oil Party to act: a climate event straight out of the book of Genesis?
We’ve done big things that protect the environment is the past, and we can do it again. In 1990, when we took steps to stop acid rain, the special interests claimed electricity bills would rise and that action would kill jobs. When we passed the Clean Air Act to combat smog, they said new pollution standards would decimate the auto industry. They were wrong then and they’re wrong now. The President’s Clean Power Plan will create good-paying American jobs by investing in clean energy and increasing efficiency because it means the next great breakthroughs in clean energy technology will be developed here at home, not overseas.
It’s in our national interest to address this crisis head-on now. Lives, money, and precious resources can be saved in our lifetimes. And we have a moral obligation to not leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is damaged beyond fixing.