“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” —Sir Robert Swan
There is a growing consensus in America that climate change is an existential emergency. As President, I would argue, in no uncertain terms, that climate change represents a clear and present danger to our people, to our democracy, and to the world at large.
Beginning with the appointment of a world-class environmentalist rather than a fossil fuel or chemical company executive (as is now the case) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, I would fundamentally reverse the current misuse of the EPA, whereby it serves mainly the cause of profit maximization for fossil fuel and chemical companies, and return it to its original mission of protection and advocacy on behalf of our natural environment. The full powers of the executive branch of the US government would be put in service to this effort.
As president, I would immediately re-enter the Paris Climate Accords. In 2015, we were one of 195 countries to support this important agreement on Climate Change, and it is urgent that we return to our previous commitment. We should not only re-enter, but lead the global transition to a decarbonized world, holding temperature increases as close to under 1.5C as possible. The United States must take unprecedented action between now and 2030 to decarbonize our entire economy.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “1.5 C temperature change report,” and the 4th US National Climate Assessment describe the dire consequences of failing to act to protect our population, our economy, and our world from climate change.
We are now seeing climate impacts in virtually every corner of the US – from flooding and unprecedented storms to massive and deadly wildfires to reduction in crop production and ocean acidification impacting our seafood industry. The World Bank estimates that climate change may displace over 140-million people before 2050, if we do not control carbon emissions. We are already seeing refugees fleeing extreme weather disasters, causing human calamities, unrest, and conflict.
However, these reports simultaneously underscore the enormous opportunities for this nation if we lead in developing and adopting innovations. America must step up and be the leader in the clean energy transition, not only to save our planet but to economically revitalize our country.
Our continued reliance on fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas -- is holding back a new, clean energy revolution that will benefit our economy, environment, and collective public health.
Furthermore, fossil fuel companies not only pollute our air and water, damage our health and accelerate global warming, they have also polluted our political system for far too long. As the result of energy industry lobbying and campaign contributions, the federal government supports the use of fossil fuels and hands out massive tax breaks and subsidies to companies that are already among the most profitable in the world. U.S. fossil fuel producing companies rake in hundreds of billions in revenue every year, with huge profit margins, yet the U.S. ranks the worst of all G7 countries by subsidizing fossil fuels the most - over $26-billion a year.
Corruption, both legalized and unvarnished, makes it extremely difficult to take on the power of the energy-producing giants. Until we deal with the issue of money’s powerful influence on our political system, none of this will truly change, which is why campaign finance reform is a central tenet to my governing philosophy.
The Green New Deal provides an overall strategy for how clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and transportation, and a national green jobs program can revitalize our economy and utilize our innovative and human capacity to benefit all our people.
Transitioning to a decarbonized economy is not only one of the great moral challenges of our time, but it can also open a new era of US innovation based on sustainable infrastructure, responsible resource management and meeting human needs. We need to explore every option to get there. This includes putting a price of carbon to send a sustained market signal and pay for the external damage done by these fuels. Many progressives and environmentalists feel that carbon fees should be mandatory (not market-based) and dedicated to achieving further reductions emissions to drive them down faster AND to protect lower income and people of color who have the least protection against climate impacts. My Administration would be open to all these ideas.
Unfortunately, the climate crisis is happening NOW. Even while we are doing all we can to stop further damage to our planet, we must simultaneously enhance our resilience to the current effects of extreme weather and hotter temperatures. Those with lower income, people of color, indigenous communities, and other vulnerable populations must be prioritized. Climate preparedness must be fully integrated into the nation’s emergency preparedness, and into our health plans, infrastructure plans, and homeland security plans.
End our reliance on oil, because it perpetuates our dependence on energy supplies from other countries, particularly in the Middle East. This constantly draws us into military misadventures to defend access to oil (and the profits it yields for big oil companies), usually under the pretense of, “defending our freedoms.”
The truth is, we can save half the oil we use through improved efficiency and get the other half from renewable energy sources. This will save, potentially, trillions of dollars from being wasted on foreign wars. Making this fundamental change in how we, as a nation, use energy is not something that anyone set of legislative actions can manage; rather, this shift will take a change in how all of us -- not only the government but also individuals -- treat the earth on which we live.