Every Friday, 14-year-old Manhattan resident Alexandria Villaseñor will wake up at 8:00 am and skip school to travel to the United Nations Headquarters. Here, she will sit on a bench, often alone, and picket to build awareness about the dangers of climate change.
Last week, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old founder of School Strike 4 Climate, and young people from across the globe joined Alexandria for the “Global Climate Strike,” which saw students walk out of school to protest climate change inaction.
Alexandria, like thousands of other young people, recognizes that her generation cannot afford to wait any longer to take meaningful action against climate change. Their advocacy is critical and admirable, but our children and grandchildren should not need to skip school and stage mass protests to stop climate change.
Yet, the federal government has put them in this position by refusing to address the climate crisis.
Climate change is real and threatens all of us, regardless of nationality, political party, or economic status. Extreme climate change has already arrived in the United States and impacts every congressional district across our country.
In New York City, the potential for stronger storms and rising seas mean Sandy-level flooding could occur once every 23 years as opposed to once every 400. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a report compiled by 13 federal scientific agencies, warns that we only have a small window of time to take meaningful action to cut carbon emissions if we are to avoid irreversible changes.
Scientists warn that window could close within about a decade if the earth heats up by an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If that happens, shrinking glaciers in the poles could lead to a massive sea-level rise, harming the planet’s ability to recover from further warming.
That metric may seem theoretical, but it’s not; according to the analysis from The Washington Post, 71 counties have already hit the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit mark, including all five boroughs.
At a time when America should be leading the global fight against climate change, the Trump Administration has taken our nation backward, recklessly withdrawing us from the Paris Agreement and rolling back countless environmental regulations designed to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Administration has even gone so far as to undermine the very science of climate change by blocking federal climate scientists from publishing data about the climate crisis and scrubbing all references to climate change from government websites. These actions are careless, and the consequences could be irreversible.
In the face of the Administration’s dangerous retreat on environmental policy, the House has not been silent. As a critical first step, the House passed multiple bills that would require the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement.
Additionally, the House passed legislation to block the Trump Administration’s dangerous plan to auction off up to 90 percent of our nation’s offshore waters for oil and gas drilling.
Democratic Members of Congress have put forward bold proposals to combat this crisis. I am proud to support Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Resolution, which challenges our federal government to address the changing climate now by bringing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions down to net-zero and meeting 100 percent of power demand in the country through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources by 2030.
The Green New Deal addresses the urgency of the moment and is the start of a serious conversation we must be having in 2019.
As I work tirelessly with my Democratic colleagues in Washington, I am proud that New York has become the national leader in the fight against climate change at the state level. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the most ambitious state mandate for climate action in the country that includes a requirement for the state to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
It is my hope that New York will stay the course and reject wasteful projects that would take us backward like the Williams Pipeline.
For the sake of future generations of young people, the federal government must move quickly to tackle the climate crisis head-on. We must also improve our climate resilience to protect Americans from the increasingly extreme weather and natural disasters that are being driven by climate change.
The President must learn from young people like Alexandria Villaseñor, and act before it is too late.
Congressman Jerry Nadler represents the 10th Congressional District of New York, which includes Manhattan and Brooklyn.