Submitted to the AFRO by Rep. Elijah Cummings
Recently, at my direction, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a critically important hearing on “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security.”
We did so because, in the face of denial, inaction, disinformation and opposition from the president, his congressional allies, and the fossil fuel industry, the American people deserve to know the truth about the dangers that we must face and overcome.
Our witnesses at our April 9 hearing, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, offered sobering testimony on the urgent need for action by the president and Congress to protect our nation and her people from the massive and growing threat posed by a rapidly changing climate.
Every American, whatever our political perspectives, should heed the warning that Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel delivered on April 9.
Just a few weeks ago, record-breaking floods forced parts of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska under as much as eight feet of water. Offutt Air Force Base is home to U.S. Strategic Command, and the flooding this year has been far beyond what it has suffered before.
Last September, Hurricane Florence caused massive damage to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. As a result, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, warned that “One third of the combat power of the Marine Corps is degraded and will continue to degrade.”
These natural disasters should not have been a surprise. In fact, the negative impact of climate change on our nation’s ability to defend itself has been predicted for decades.
Our national security leaders – from Democratic and Republican Administrations alike – have been warning that we need strong and decisive leadership to combat climate change and defend against the damages that extreme weather events pose to our national security.
In fact, in the most recent National Climate Assessment ( https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/ ), mandated by Congress and issued under the Trump Administration, 13 federal agencies and more than 300 experts from around the country issued this warning: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.”
Just as sobering, the National Climate Assessment found that, thus far, our response to this crisis has not been sufficient to avoid “substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
Earlier this year, President Trump’s Director of National Security, Dan Coats, warned that climate change is “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”
Director Coats noted that heat waves, droughts, and floods driven by climate change are already “increasing the risk of social unrest, migration, and interstate tension in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Jordan.”
Yet even in the face of these clear and present threats to our national security, the President has failed to show the leadership Americans need.
When the experts in his own Administration issued the National Climate Assessment last year, President Trump responded by declaring: “I don’t believe it.”
Instead of leading a national, bipartisan mobilization to fight climate change, President Trump has attacked the scientific consensus, weakened environmental protections, and undermined U.S. leadership in combatting this existential threat abroad.
The American people deserve to know why our President and his Republican allies in Congress have not done more to tackle this problem – or even acknowledge it exists.
This is why our Subcommittee on the Environment brought in experts to examine how politics has prevented our government from taking action on climate change, even though scientists have been issuing dire warnings for more than 30 years. That hearing can (and should) be viewed at https://oversight.house.gov/subcommittees/environment-116th-congress.
Above all else, the American people deserve congressional leadership in enacting a Green New Deal [H. Res. 109 / S. Res. 59] to lead us away from the ecological abyss that we now face, keep America competitive in a rapidly changing global economy, invest in millions of living wage jobs, and protect our environment for generations to come.
I am grateful for the opportunity to co-sponsor this vision for our future, despite the political attacks that surely are to come.
Our attackers will call our Green New Deal “socialism.” In fact, it is a roadmap for America to think big again: to conquer climate change while making our nation fairer and more prosperous.
I understand that there may be differences of opinion on how to respond to climate change, but there should be no uncertainty about whether we should respond.
Climate change is real, and the time for action is now.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
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