By Bernie Sanders
Everyone knows there is a lot going around in the world right now.
The situation in Israel and Gaza is horrific and brutal. Russia’s outrageous invasion of Ukraine continues. Authoritarianism is on the rise globally, and here at home we are looking at the very real possibility that Donald Trump — the worst president in American history — could become President of the United States once again. At the same time, tens of millions of Americans go about their days without the health care or access to prescription medicines they need to live a healthy life. We’re trying to protect a woman’s right to control her own body. And the horror of increased gun violence is around us every day.
Among many other things.
And oh… there is the not so small and insignificant matter of a climate emergency that threatens the very habitability of our planet for our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
With all that is going on in the world right now — and these are some very big and complex issues — we cannot lose sight of the fact we are staring at a very fundamental choice with respect to climate change, and nothing less than the future of our planet is at stake.
Let me repeat that: nothing less than the future of our planet is at stake.
On the one hand, we can listen to some of my Republican colleagues who see the first flake snow fall to the ground, point to it, and scream “Climate change is hoax!”
We can listen to those who say that even if climate change is reality, it has nothing to do with carbon emissions and there is nothing we can do it about.
We can listen to those who say that believers in climate change are engaged in “fake news,” are part of a “woke conspiracy” or pushing “cult-like” propaganda.
And, frighteningly, there are many millions of Americans who are listening to those voices – voices often paid for by the fossil fuel industry.
On the other hand, we can listen to the scientists who are telling us that we are running out of time to get our act together.
We can listen to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that if the United States, China and the rest of the world do not act extremely aggressively in cutting carbon emissions, our planet will face enormous and irreversible damage.
We can listen to the scientists who recently published a paper saying the world has only about six years to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions to a level that will keep global temperatures from increasing by more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
We can listen to the scientists who no longer avoid phrases like “climate emergency” and “climate crisis.”
We can listen to the CIA that has made it clear that the impact of climate change will substantially increase the risk of war, social unrest and cross-border tensions.
We can listen to the economists who have made it clear that the cost of not acting on climate change will mean more than $100 trillion in lost economic activity throughout the world and that climate change will throw more than 100 million people throughout the world into extreme poverty.
We can listen to the studies that show rising global temperatures will lead to shorter lifespans and worse mental health; increased instances of food and waterborne disease, human and animal diseases; increased exposure to wildfires will mean more heart and lung diseases, and flooding during extreme weather events will make it harder for health care services to get to those who need it.
This is reality.
This is our future.
This is the planet we are leaving for our children and for our grandchildren.
Unless we act.
The good news is that we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change, save a great deal of money, and make our energy grid more resilient by transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Yes, out of all the problems out there in the world that are seemingly intractable, this is one where we know how to make progress.
I understand that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a contentious and difficult issue and will meet enormous opposition from Big Oil and other special interests.
No, it won’t be easy.
Yes, we can do it.
We can transform our energy systems away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
We can do that in transportation, electricity generation, agriculture and making our buildings and appliances more energy efficient.
We can build the new electric cars and trucks we need and make it easier for working families to buy them.
We can weatherize millions of homes and buildings, cut carbon emissions and lower energy bills.
We can move away from coal and gas electricity generation and convert to wind, solar and hydro.
We can invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests and prairie lands.
We can fund research and development to drastically reduce the cost of energy storage.
And yes — perhaps most challenging — we can develop an unprecedented sense of urgency about this global crisis. Because it is critical we bring the world together NOW to address this existential threat.
Failure to act will doom future generations to a very uncertain future.
For the sake of our common humanity we cannot allow that to happen.
Bernie Sanders is an independent senator who represent the state of Vermont.