Trump says Puerto Rico has thrown the U.S. budget out of whack. (Oct. 3, 2017)
The arrival of record-shattering hurricanes, forest fires in the West the size of Maryland, and collapsing glaciers makes something clear to anyone not in a state of ideological denial: Humanity is in a fight for its survival, and if we have any hope of saving ourselves from endless climate disasters, we must radically change the political climate first.
An attentive America will treat the catastrophes named Harvey, Irma and Maria not as lurid TV spectacles but as wake-up calls for civilization. Climate change and its calamities are causing terrible human suffering from Texas, which broke the record for rainfall in a single day, to Puerto Rico, which is facing a calamitous public health and safety crisis. With no time left to debate the delusional dogmas of climate denialism, we must develop policies to break quickly and permanently from the carbon economy and invest in renewable energy and a far more resilient national infrastructure.
It's not too late to save a decent existence for our children and grandchildren on planet earth. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change states that global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius is likely to trigger numerous ecological "tipping points" that would irreversibly escalate climate crisis and devastate our traditional way of life. But if we stay below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, we can avoid climate apocalypse, and those of us living in coastal states might avoid the terrible fate of victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, Harvey and Irma, whose victims were pounded by strong winds for days.
But environmental salvation requires strong political action. We need to accomplish something like a political miracle to restrain climate rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The environmental advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, with which we're collaborating, argues that transitioning to 100 percent clean energy within the next two decades is absolutely essential, and the group has the science to back it up.
This means all hands on deck. In Maryland we have special and urgent incentives to act. A proud maritime state with 3,190 miles of Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay coastline, we are seeing major coastal erosion, and many of our towns and cities are experiencing dramatic and dangerous flash flooding. A recent study on the impact of rising sea levels caused by global warming found that Maryland will soon endure "chronic inundation" of our communities, a threat of devastation worse than that faced by any other state in the union but Louisiana.
As only the third state to ban fracking, Maryland has already made a name for itself in the world's climate struggle, and we have a chance to be an environmental leader for all America by planning a move to 100 percent clean energy by 2035. We can't waste time aiming for anything less sweeping than the goal of getting off the deadly fossil fuels addiction completely.
That will be the substance of state-level legislation coming in January. On the national level too, we are fighting for similar legislation already introduced by Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, to transition the entire country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. The OFF Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (HR 3671), also known as the "OFF Act" is the most ambitious piece of climate legislation ever introduced in Congress. It would place a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and move the U.S. energy and transportation systems to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, recognizing that the bulk of emissions reductions must come quickly in the next 10 years. It would also provide for a just transition for afflicted communities and all those people working honorably in the fossil fuel industry.
Along the way, the OFF Act would focus on protecting vulnerable low-income communities by creating opportunities for well-paying, union jobs in new sectors like solar and wind. It would also require that the rest of the country follow Maryland's lead in banning fracking, thus protecting public health and environmental integrity.
These visionary bills may seem to set an unrealistic goal, but, when you think about it, continuing on the current course of climate-altering carbon emissions is what is really proving every day to be an unrealistic energy strategy and a lethal peril to human civilization.
Jamie Raskin (Twitter: @RepRaskin) is a Democrat representing Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives. Shane Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Democrat and member of the Maryalnd House of Delegates.