By Ken Berlin
April 28, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
Politicians and pundits often paint the climate crisis as a partisan issue — but that view itself is an alternative fact. The climate crisis affects us all, and most Americans understand the risks: Two-thirds of American voters say they are concerned about how climate change will affect them or a family member personally.
If you care about clean drinking water and healthy children, you care about the climate crisis. If you care about the poor and impoverished, you care about the climate crisis. If you care about national security, the safety of our nation, and the stability of the world at large, you care about the climate crisis. If you care about the economic empowerment of all Americans, including women and minority groups, you care about the climate crisis.
So why do we let politicians make us think we’re divided on the issue? And, more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
Although President Donald Trump’s dangerous executive orders are drawing attention to the highly partisan political treatment of climate change, the battle to support hard science and climate action has a much longer history than the latest campaign season. Concerned citizens around the country have been fighting for climate action for decades. They have been pushing back against doubt and denial in every sector of society and at every level of government. In some ways, we in the environmental community have been most effective when faced with the longest odds.
In 2014, for instance, nearly half-a-million people joined the People’s Climate March in New York City — the largest climate change march in history. This show of popular support there and at sister marches around the world helped create political cover and pave the way for 195 countries to reach the historic Paris Agreement in late 2015, marking the first time world leaders made a universal commitment to address the climate crisis and a collective plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the problem.
And while the United States’ new EPA administrator advocates “exiting” this crucial accord, the truth is that 7 in 10 Americans – including 57 percent of Republicans – support the U.S.’s participation in the Paris Agreement.
The Trump administration has proposed cutting global climate change programs at the State Department, ending programs to develop new energy technologies at the Department of Energy, and reducing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent. The good news, however, is that other actors are stepping in where the federal government is failing.
States, cities, towns, and businesses across the country are already taking action by committing to 100-percent renewable electricity and will continue driving progress forward over the next four years. Large global corporations such as GE and Walmart recognize the threat of climate change and the promise of renewable energy, and are making concrete commitments that bolster their bottom lines. Faith communities around the world — from Catholics to Muslims — see the climate crisis as a moral issue, and are taking action to protect our planet’s most vulnerable people. And clean energy such as wind and solar is already cost-competitive with or even cheaper than fossil fuels in many places. Indeed, solar power is likely to cost less on average than coal globally by 2025.
We know that alternative facts won’t stop rising temperatures, make polluted air safe to breathe, or reverse the dangerous impacts of fossil fuels on our planet. That’s why today, it’s more important than ever for us to fight for action on the climate crisis.
At a time when there is a huge appetite for acts of resistance, the climate crisis is one area where people can make a real difference. The People’s Climate March on April 29 – President Trump’s 100th day in office – is an opportunity for activists to band together and show up as a united front to demand substantive action from the U.S. government and leaders at all levels. The People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., is expected to be one of the largest gatherings of activists and advocates this year. Showing up at the flagship march in D.C. or one of the many sister marches being held across the country and around the world is an important first step in standing up for climate action and speaking out in favor of a better, cleaner, more peaceful world for everyone.
Ken Berlin is president and CEO of the Climate Reality Project.
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