Fighting the climate crisis isn't optional
© iStock

Worsening wildfires in the West, historic floods in the Midwest and destructive hurricanes in the East keep reminding us that the time to protect our planet is upon us. But even as global carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2019, we have a U.S. president who refuses to take any climate action, or even attend the important climate negotiations taking place in Madrid this week. In doing so, the current president is letting other countries off the hook and squandering an opportunity for America to lead the way.

When asked by a reporter, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE said recently that he thinks about climate change “all the time,” but his actions do not match his words. Just look at what he did last month. By unilaterally pulling the U.S. from the Paris agreement, he turned the United States into the only country in the entire world to disavow the global commitment to fight the climate crisis.

But that’s not what most Americans want, which is why House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump should accept election results 'like a man' The spectre of pension failures haunts this election Microsoft: Iranian hacking group targeting attendees of major international security conferences MORE (D-Calif.) and I led a congressional delegation to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Madrid last week. In front of an international audience, we showed the world that true American leaders keep their promises, and that the U.S. intends to fulfill its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. As the chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, I was inspired by the continued international commitment to our shared goal of creating a sustainable future.

ADVERTISEMENT

For months, House Democrats have been taking bold climate action, promoting bills that will reduce pollution, create clean energy jobs and move us toward a sustainable future. With the unified commitment of Democrats in Congress, the House passed my bipartisan Climate Action Now Act in May, which would keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement and direct the president to present a plan to meet our nation’s climate goals.

That legislation, like too many other important House-passed bills, has been languishing in the Senate for months. The planet is running out of ways to convince Republican leadership that the time for climate action is now.

As Trump withdrew us from the Paris agreement, our nation suffered over $2 billion in flooding damages along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers this year, as well as another round of destructive wildfires in the West and hurricanes that cost Louisiana, North Carolina and the U.S. Virgin Islands hundreds of millions of dollars.

Climate action makes economic sense and provides an enormous opportunity to create good-paying jobs built on a foundation of social justice. The two fastest growing jobs in the U.S. are solar panel installer and wind turbine technician, and families who take advantage of energy efficiency upgrades and fuel-efficient vehicles can see sizeable savings on their home energy bills and at the pump. Every one dollar we spend on preparing for climate-fueled disasters will not only save lives; it also can save us six dollars in reduced risks during extreme weather events.

In their harmful climate denial, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like MORE (R-Ky.) are increasingly alienated from the rest of America. Not only do most Americans - including an impressive 77 percent of registered voters - think the U.S. should stay in the Paris agreement, but recent polling shows that even large swaths of the Republican Party, particularly youth, recognize the need for climate action.

ADVERTISEMENT

That’s why more than 3,800 American cities, states, businesses, tribes, universities and other institutions have created their own climate goals and declared that they are “still in” the Paris agreement. Collectively, these networks and coalitions represent nearly 70 percent of U.S. GDP and nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population. As they lead the way on climate solutions, hundreds of these local leaders and experts have briefed our Select Committee on how Congress can expand their efforts, as we draft a congressional plan to solve the climate crisis.

It’s going to take a historic effort by all nations to respond to global warming. In Madrid, I was encouraged by the continued commitment of other countries that are ramping up their ambitions to meet Paris goals. We want them to know the U.S. stands with them. And we know we can lead by example to make sure other big emitters -like Brazil and China- are also doing their part.

Next spring, our Select Committee will release a bold congressional climate action plan, outlining the ways we can reduce pollution and protect our most vulnerable communities. I’m excited about the climate diplomacy happening in Madrid, and I’m proud to have joined the hundreds of Americans who attended because we take the climate crisis seriously.

I can’t wait until we have an American president who’s willing to do the same.

Castor is chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.