The Hill: Congress must tackle climate change now
In a modern society, all of us deal with a thousand different issues. But there is one issue that can kill humanity as a species: climate change.
Rising sea levels, more extreme weather events and an increasingly hotter climate are not partisan issues. That’s why former Secretary of State George Shultz wrote a column last month in The Washington Post urging action on climate change as an insurance policy to avoid being “mugged by reality.” He called it “the Reagan way.”
Jurisdictions that have implemented policies to tackle climate change have not only improved the environment, they’ve also improved their economies. Germany’s investments in massive renewable energies, from solar to wind farms, have reduced pollution and lessened its reliance on foreign energy. Germany continues to have one of the strongest economies in the world.
In 2006, California passed the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act. The law slashes the state’s carbon pollution 25 percent by 2020. I co-authored this legislation, which has now resulted in tremendous investments in technology and the green economy in the state. Last year, California created more jobs than any state in the union.
That’s why, to commemorate Earth Day, I have introduced the Climate Solutions Act — legislation that takes California’s leadership on climate change nationwide. The measure, developed in close consultation with leading environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Earth Justice and the League of Conservation Voters, tackles climate change by focusing on three areas: reducing carbon pollution, implementing renewable portfolio standards and setting energy efficiency standards.
The urgency is real and can be measured. Sea levels have risen in the last century by 6.7 inches, with the rate accelerating by nearly double in the last decade. Twenty of the hottest years in recorded history occurred since the 1980s. In 2012, we had the second highest number of extreme weather events in history, and 19 states broke records for hottest temperatures.
Most of us are not scientists. But we trust science in virtually all of our daily activities. The electricity we use, the medicines we take and the televisions we watch are all possible because of scientific advancement. And when 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and caused in large part by human beings, it is both uninformed and dangerous to ignore science.
The Climate Solutions Act empowers the experts — the scientists at the National Academies of Science and National Research Council — to recommend innovative solutions to tackle climate change.
The act empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to set historic targets and implement policies for reducing carbon pollution: a 40 percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2035 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Americans confronting drought and rising sea levels know we cannot continue to pump billions of tons of carbon pollution into the air while we struggle to cope with changes in our climate and extreme weather not seen before in our lifetimes.
The act sets bold renewable energy goals: 40 percent of all electric energy to come from renewable sources by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050. If California can do it, then so can the rest of the nation.
The act empowers the Department of Energy to increase energy efficiency savings targets, starting in 2018 and increasing each year until 2028. It’s time to produce more energy-saving appliances for our homes and machines for our businesses, designed and manufactured by American workers.
The health of our families and the future of our economy depend upon our willingness to forge bold 21st century solutions to the 21st century crisis of climate change. It’s time to end our dependence on the dirty, destructive fuels of the 19th century.
History books will one day say that America led the way on addressing climate change and saving our planet — or there may be no history books.
Americans have led many technological revolutions throughout history and there’s no reason we can’t lead the green energy revolution already underway in California, China, Germany and beyond. It’s time to invest in clean, safe fuels that will never run out: solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and other renewable energies.
Green energy technology will create millions of high-paying American jobs that cannot be outsourced, rebuilding our nation’s manufacturing economy, starting with wind turbines and solar panels stamped “Made in America.”
Tackling climate change is not just the Reagan way, it is the American way.