We Must Act Now on Global Warming (Sen. Sanders)

Bill McKibben of Middlebury College and the entire Step It Up team deserve an enormous amount of credit for the great work they did on Saturday, April 14 with regard to global warming. In Vermont, I was pleased to have attended five separate events and, throughout the state, there were over 50 events. Nationally, there were some 1,400 rallies in 50 states. This is precisely the kind of grass-roots action we need to focus attention on the crisis of global warming and to get the Congress moving.

Senator Bernie SandersBill McKibben of Middlebury College and the entire Step It Up team deserve an enormous amount of credit for the great work they did on Saturday, April 14 with regard to global warming. In Vermont, I was pleased to have attended five separate events and, throughout the state, there were over 50 events. Nationally, there were some 1,400 rallies in 50 states. This is precisely the kind of grass-roots action we need to focus attention on the crisis of global warming and to get the Congress moving.The goal of these rallies was to support legislation which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by theyear 2050. This is consistent with the legislation that Senator Barbara Boxerand I have introduced, S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.This legislation now has ten co-sponsors in the Senate. Similar legislationhas been introduced in the House by Congressman Henry Waxman. In my view, the debate about global warming is over. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), consisting of over 2,000 scientists from over 100 countries, has reached a unanimous conclusion that global warming is real, and concluded with 90 percent certainty that global warming is man-made. With 10 of the last 12 years being the warmest on record, we are already seeing major problems caused by the warming of the earth. Glaciers and permafrost in the Artic are melting; drought and forest fires are increasing as are the severity of extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and tornados. There has been a loss of clean drinking water and more and more species are endangered. Many of the most serious and immediate problems will occur in the poorest countries on Earth - those that are least able to deal with them.Tragically, as in many other areas, the Bush administration has been lagging behind much of the world in acknowledging the severity of the problem of global warming and in coming up with solutions. With a newly elected Congress, it is imperative that we now develop a bold agenda to reverse global warming and make sure that the nation and planet we leave our children and grandchildren is environmentally sound. Where do we go from here? Most environmentalists agree that we need to move forward in a multi-pronged approach. First, there are enormous benefits achievable as we become serious about energy efficiency. In terms of transportation, the idea that we now drive vehicles that get WORSE mileage per gallon than 20 years ago is incomprehensible. (When I recently visited the U.A. Auto Show in Washington the car most prominently displayed was the Hummer). We must raise CAF? standards and demand that automakers use the technology already available to substantially increase auto efficiency in all car models. We should support the production of electric vehicles - some of which now have a range of over 200 miles. We must put increased resources into public transportation, and rebuild our decaying national rail system. Energy efficiency can take place in every aspect of our lives. We should increase the weatherization program for low-income Americans and provide tax-credits for middle-class families who want to retrofit their homes and apartments. There are estimates that we can reduce energy use by at least 25 percent in buildings as we build and insulate properly and use more efficient lighting and appliances. If we are to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and break our dependence on fossil fuels, we must also move forward vigorously in terms of sustainable energy - solar, wind, bio-mass, geo-thermal, hydro-power. In terms of solar energy, with properly financed production and investor solar tax credits, as well as rebates, we can install 10 million photo-voltaic units on roof tops across the country in the next 10 years. The U.S. government should also be providing incentives for the production and use of large and small wind-turbines. In many parts of rural America a small wind-turbine can provide 50 percent of the electricity a home needs. Hard-pressed family farmers can be major beneficiaries of new forms of energy as they utilize manure for electricity and grow bio-fuel crops such as switch-grass, canola and soy. Some of my colleagues in Congress argue that moving forward aggressively to reverse global warming would be bad for the economy. I respectfully disagree. The reality is that if we do NOT reverse global warming we will almost certainly see enormous economic dislocation in our country and throughout the world. Think Hurricane Katrina! Further, if the U.S. can become a leader in energy efficiency and the production and installation of wind, solar and other sustainable technologies there is an opportunity for significant new job creation. Global warming is real and it is man-made. Every day that passes that we do not take aggressive action to reverse it is a day that we are punishing our children and grandchildren. The time to act is NOW. (Senator Bernie Sanders is a member of both the Environmental Committee and the Energy Committee)Click here to view video of the Step It Up activities or here for photos.