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Guest Column: Time to Act on Climate Change

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Unless we take bold action to reverse climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage the scientific community said would surely come?

Global warming is the most serious environmental crisis facing the world today. It demands bold action to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren.

I have introduced legislation that would reverse greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way. It also would help create millions of jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. A major focus of this legislation is a price on carbon and methane emissions. This fee on the largest fossil-fuel polluters affects fewer than 3,000 entities nationwide but covers 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. To help consumers, 60 percent of the carbon fee revenue will be rebated to every U.S. resident.

Let me be clear: the issue that we are dealing with is not political. It has nothing to do with the squabbling we see in Washington every day. It has everything to do with physics. The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their earlier projections were wrong. The crisis facing our planet is much worse than they had thought only a few years ago.

I applaud President Barack Obama for saying this week that he will take steps to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and boost renewable energy production. These steps will help not only the environment but the economy, too, by creating many, many jobs. But let’s be clear: much more must be done.

The president must support a tax on carbon and methane emissions to show the world that the United States is prepared to transform our energy system and be an international leader on climate change. The president must demand that Congress work with him to dramatically improve energy efficiency and to greatly increase our utilization of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy. And the president must not give speeches about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and allow construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada’s tar sands oil fields, which would result in a huge increase in carbon emissions.

We will never fully deal with this crisis until Congress passes strong legislation. I will continue to fight as hard as I can to do that, and I will work to rally support from American families all across this country that care deeply about their children’s and grandchildren’s future, and want to protect them from this planetary crisis.•

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