A healthier planet and economy is worth fighting for

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a report detailing the catastrophic impacts that the climate crisis has had — and will continue to have — on our health, wellbeing and economy. This information could have been made available to the public sooner if not for the Trump administration’s shameful obstruction.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed a number of vital truths about the preparedness of our country to deal with such disasters and the absolute imperative that we elect leaders who will listen to experts and scientists and fight to protect people over profits — especially the Black, Indigenous, and communities of color that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and subjected to environmental racism for decades.

During the Trump era, the federal government denied and ignored the warnings of scientists, climate experts, and public health officials and undermined our communities by rolling back more than 100 public health and environmental protections for our air, land, water, wildlife and communities. The unprecedented giveaways to big corporate polluters put communities across the country and lives at risk — setting us back when we were already behind.

When I was the administrator of the EPA, from 1993 to 2001 under President Clinton, and as the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama, my job was to advance environmental policies that protect our health and our environment. I’m thrilled to see the EPA under new management — restored to its core values and purpose under the leadership of Administrator Michael Regan.

The EPA report makes it clear that the impacts of the climate crisis are already being experienced across the country. Extreme weather events are far more common; in 2020, the U.S. endured 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, breaking the previous record of 16 from 2017 and 2011. The increase in these events is not random; as temperatures increase, so will extreme weather disasters. Surface temperatures in the lower 48 states are increasing by as much as half a degree per year. Rising temperatures have made wildfire seasons longer, resulting in more land being burned each year. Seas have risen by as much as 8 inches since 1960 and today, floods are five times more common than they were in the 1950s.  

What the science tells us is that until the climate crisis is under control, these extreme weather disasters will only worsen. But there is hope. At the new EPA, science and facts are back. And as we continue on the path to recovery, people across the country know we can’t afford to not act on the climate crisis.

That’s why voters elected President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — the administration with the strongest start on climate change of any presidential administration. Together we can address the climate crisis and build back our economy better than before. The Biden administration detailed a clear path forward — one that will help us rebuild our economy to be more equitable and just and powered by 100 percent clean energy, create millions of good-paying union jobs, and direct at least 40 percent of benefits to to the low-income and communities of color who are harmed the most by toxic pollution.  

Recent polling shows that the majority of voters across the country and on all sides of the political spectrum strongly support the American Jobs Plan and swift action on the climate crisis. 

Guarding against the myriad of financial and budgetary risks posed by climate change could not be more important as our country recovers from the pandemic and its economic fallout. Congress must act now to pass the American Jobs Plan including ambitious action on climate change, environmental justice and clean energy. We don’t have any more time to waste. 

Carol M. Browner is currently the board chair of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator.

Tags Biden climate policy Climate change climate crisis Environmental justice EPA extreme weather Global warming Joe Biden Michael Regan Natural disasters

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