The Hill: Pope Francis and the movement to act on climate

June 18, 2015
Opinion: Op-Eds 

What do Pope Francis, the United States military and former Secretary of State George Shultz have in common?  They all believe climate change is real, mostly caused by humans and responsible for the unprecedented destruction of our planet’s precious ecosystems.  When leaders and institutions not normally associated with environmental causes come together to tackle climate change, the tipping point for significant action on climate is near.   

Pope Francis states that a failure to urgently address Earth’s “great concentration of greenhouse gasses” means “grave consequences for us all.”  For Pope Francis, addressing climate change is key to tackling global poverty and environmental ruin. 

Our nation’s military is effective because it is nonpartisan, relies heavily on science and technology, and takes the world as it is, not as it wishes it to be.  Our military leaders have studied the climate change issue and now believe that mitigating climate change is an urgent national security issue.  

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Shultz wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post declaring that America needs to act on climate change now.  He called it an insurance policy against future catastrophe.

I believe that Congress will soon catch up to where the American public already is.  That’s whyI recently introduced the Climate Solutions Act in the House of Representatives.

The Act – developed in close consultation with leading environmental organizations such as Sierra Club, Earth Justice and the Environmental Defense Action Fund – empowers experts (the scientists at the National Academies of Science and National Research Council) to recommend bold and innovative solutions to tackle climate change. 

The Act takes California’s leadership on slashing carbon pollution nationwide.  The bill instructs the EPA to set historic targets for reducing carbon pollution: 40  percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below levels by 2050.

The Act flatly rejects the backwards idea that tackling climate change hurts the paychecks and savings accounts of hardworking Americans.  In fact, the exact opposite is true. 

California has the strongest climate change law in the union and last year the Golden State created more jobs than any other state.  Deeper investment in 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.” 

The Act sets bold renewable energy goals: 40 percent of all electric energy to come from renewable sources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.  It’s time to invest in clean, safe fuels that will never run out – solar, wind, tidal, geothermal.  Americans have led every modern technological revolution and there’s no reason we can’t lead the green energy revolution already underway in China, Germany and beyond.

It’s also time to produce more energy-saving appliances for our homes and machines for our businesses, designed and manufactured by American workers.  The Act empowers the Department of Energy to increase energy efficiency savings targets, starting in 2018 and increasing each year until 2028.

We must act to reduce the increasingly dangerous and destructive levels of carbon pollution that account for practically all of global climate change.  However, up to this point, Republican representatives in Congress have refused to listen to climate scientists or the leaders of the U.S. Military on the need to #ActOnClimate.  Will they heed what Pope Francis has to say on the matter?  I hope so.

In contrast to the House Republicans’ willful and dangerous ignorance on the issue, a growing chorus of national and global leaders are calling for an end to the pollution that is damaging the health of our children, the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the ground where they play. 

The United States Congress must answer this call to action by following California’s lead, by tackling climate change now.  It’s time to end our dependence on the dirty, destructive fuels of the 18th century.  It’s time to do what’s best for America, to do what’s best for humanity.