In the maelstrom of media coverage of U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate and his snub of the House, other breaking news got lost in a hazy fog. So, if you missed the fact that the House accepted a climate-related bill — H.R. 9 — on Thursday, May 2, you are probably not alone.
Called the Climate Action Now Act, the bill passed in the House on a 231-190 vote. If it attains final approval, the bill will require that the administration assembles a plan to stand by the pledge our nation made to the International Paris climate accord.
The Paris agreement — per our consent — requires the United States cut its emissions by at least 26 percent by the year 2025 based on 2005 levels.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely the bill will see the light of day. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, predicted the measure will “go nowhere” and even if the Republican-run Senate passes the bill, it is fairly certain that the President will not sign it.
In 2017, when President Trump declared that the United States was withdrawing from the accord, he offered this explanation. “The agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States and ships them to foreign countries. This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.” -USA Today, May 2.
President Trump envisions our nation clinging to energy sources that are major contributors to climate change. Instead of preparing for the future, this administration aims to hold us back — back in the coal mines, back in the oil fields — while other nations explore and develop low-carbon and carbon-free energy resources. This inaction will put us behind on the world market in terms of providing planet-friendly energy.
“Democrats, environmental groups and some economists countered that the growth of green jobs would more than make up for jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry.”
Yet, Senate Republicans continue to dismiss the bill as “...a pointless political effort and criticized it as bad policy.” -USA Today, May 2.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the House floor Thursday (May 2), prior to the vote, indicated how critical it is to address climate change.
“It’s time to end denial about (climate change) and start listening to the facts. This is about science, science, science. An overwhelming number of Americans know this is a crisis, they know that human behavior has an impact on it and they want us to act.” -USA Today, May 2.
Corroborating Pelosi’s assessment of the population’s attitude, USA Today, reported, “More than eight in 10 respondents – 82 percent – say it is ‘very important’ that a Democratic presidential candidate supports taking aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change.” The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 5.9 percentage points.
Indeed, it may seem repetitive and pointless for the House to pass a climate bill that stands no chance of making it through Congress, but as the Speaker indicated, it is urgent that we address the climate issue. Climate change is not a hoax. Scientists have been warning us about the impending crisis for decades, now. Nor is climate change beyond our control. At least, not yet. Although, time is running out.
A May 6 Associated Press article summarized the United Nations’ recent report. The sixth Global Environment Outlook conference, hosted by the United Nations, indicated that we are contributing substantially to climate change by:
“— Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.
“— Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world’s land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.
“— Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.
“— Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70 percent since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.” — from the United Nations’ climate report.
While the report is dire, it does indicate that, assuming we — humans — take immediate action, there is still hope.
Thomas Lovejoy, a George Mason University biologist, explained, “Fighting climate change and saving species are equally important, and working on both environmental problems should go hand in hand. Both problems exacerbate each other because a warmer world means fewer species, and a less biodiverse world means fewer trees and plants to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the air.” Note: Lovejoy, who is considered “...the godfather of biodiversity” was not on the committee that worked on the U.N. report.
In summation, the report called “...on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.”
Fortunately, some of our political leaders comprehend the urgent need to address climate change.
One, House Representative Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, recently expressed his grave concerns. (Ryan is a presidential candidate.)
According to a May 2 interview in Roll Call, Ryan stated,
“‘We’ve got to be Paris on steroids. We gotta go, and the clock’s ticking. I think it’s important for us to thread the needle about having the private sector play a big role because they’re going to do it faster, better than we are,’ he said of efforts to limit emissions.”
Ryan represents northeastern Ohio, where manufacturing jobs are disappearing. He feels that it is possible “...to merge the twin objectives of limiting emissions and creating jobs.”
Ryan said the United States should be a “...powerhouse in the low-carbon sector.
“Talking about dominating (the low carbon) industries that are going to get us where we need to be with our climate goals is the way to do it.
“You know, that’s the future and we talk to people who don’t necessarily have the luxury of thinking about climate, right? They’ve just lost their job or they’re underemployed. Convincing them that this is going to work and that we can cut them in on the deal is, I think, a compelling message.” -Roll Call, May 2.
Now is the time to talk realistically about the future. Certainly, we can pretend that all is well. We can delude ourselves into believing that our only worry is a handful of mad scientists proclaiming “...the sky is falling.”
However, while we procrastinate, our planet is becoming uninhabitable. Take note of the increased numbers and intensity of wildfires and floods that have plagued large portions of our nation, just since March of 2018 through today. We are spending — and will continue to spend — enormous amounts of money to recover from those disasters. Plus, revitalizing economies that have been crippled by those disasters will likely take years, perhaps decades.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, expressed optimism regarding the House’s vote. Suh opined, “Nothing better demonstrates the newfound climate leadership in Congress than today’s (May 2) vote. The House is responding to the rising calls, from every quarter, for action to combat the soaring costs and the mounting dangers of climate change. And it’s signaling to the country, and the world, that Americans intend to keep the promises we made in Paris.” -The Verge, May 2.
Indeed, it is a promise we cannot afford to break, for if we do, we’ll be homewreckers. Where will we, our offspring, and the rest of the world live if, by our inaction, we destroy our planet?