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Opinion: Climate change demands U.S. action now

March 20, 2019
In The News

By Suzanne Bonamici

Bonamici, a Democrat, represents Oregon’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We can no longer wait to take bold action on climate change.

Smoke from raging wildfires is making the air unhealthy to breathe. Acidic oceans are threatening the shellfish industry on the Pacific Coast. Decreased snowpack is limiting access to skiing and snowboarding on Mount Hood, affecting the outdoor recreation industry. Droughts and extreme weather patterns jeopardize the livelihoods of our farmers, our prestigious wineries, and our agricultural economy. Warmer water temperatures in the Columbia River are further endangering salmon, which are a fundamental part of the identity and culture of many Northwest tribes. Rising sea levels threaten homeowners and small businesses in our coastal communities.

The science is clear and alarming: If we do not act quickly on climate change, the consequences will be serious and swift. Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.S. Global Change Research Program indicate that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the most substantial factor that account for the observed global warming over the past six decades, and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are now higher than at any time in the last three million years.

Despite this conclusive evidence, the Trump Administration withdrew from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, has doubled down on its denial of facts and science, and is continuing to put industry interests over clean air and clean water. The lack of meaningful action to address climate change will mean severe consequences for every person in our country, particularly and disproportionately young children, seniors, and other vulnerable populations.

But there is hope. Under the new leadership of the House of Representatives, we have the opportunity to act on climate and protect our planet.

I am honored to serve as one of only nine Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In this role, I will be working with my colleagues to fight for comprehensive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to 100 percent clean energy, create good-paying jobs, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure in a sustainable and resilient manner and invest in clean and efficient transportation systems.

The United States can and should lead the world’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Pollution does not recognize international borders, and the president’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accord weakens our international standing and endangers our planet. While advocating for the U.S. to rejoin the agreement, we must also hold the administration accountable for its attacks on our environmental safeguards.

With attention to science and the right commitment, the United States can be a global leader. We know that climate change affects every worker, business and sector in our economy. As we shift our economy away from fossil fuels and decarbonize, we must modernize our electric grid to increase storage, transmission, and distribution. We also must strengthen investments in research and development for clean energy sources including untapped renewable sources like wave energy. I have been proud to lead efforts to secure federal funding for wave energy research through the Pacific Marine Energy Center and Oregon State University.

Addressing climate change also means repairing and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems in a resilient and sustainable manner. This means expanding energy efficiency and weatherization assistance programs. It also means strengthening building codes and upgrading infrastructure, including stormwater systems and levees, to withstand the effects of climate change. Transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, and we must accelerate the transition to clean electric vehicles. Additionally, we need to expand access to mass transit in all areas, not just urban centers.

As we combat the effects of climate change, we must acknowledge that people of color and low-income communities often face a disproportionate share of the burden of our inaction. I am a proud cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, which puts the well-being of our most vulnerable populations front and center in this debate. I am committed to fighting environmental injustices and supporting all communities as they prepare for and cope with the effects of climate change. And I will advocate for skills training and support services to make sure workers in sectors already affected by climate have the education and skills they need to transition to new, good-paying jobs.

Confronting climate change requires innovation, leadership, and the responsible use the vast resources in our country. We cannot shy away from the challenge. The future of our planet and the health of our communities depend on our actions today.