The climate change supercharged fires raging across California are the latest reminder that our planet is rapidly warming, and that swift, bold national action is needed to have any chance of avoiding even deeper ravages of climate chaos. But there is a glimmer of hope — the infusion of new members of Congress, driven by a growing grassroots movement for a Green New Deal, presents our best hope for a stable future.
Super Fires Are Happening More Frequently
As of this writing, the San Francisco Bay Area is choking on smoke, which has blown down from the Camp Fire that has claimed at least 56 lives, making it the deadliest in state history. At the same time, fires burning in Southern California have caused the evacuation of thousands and three deaths. Between the terrible loss of human life, ongoing health impacts and broad human displacement, millions of people are being deeply affected by this latest unnatural climate disaster.
Sadly, these fires are not unique. I wrote similarly last year about California fires, and this increasingly looks the new normal, as hotter drier summers make our state more vulnerable to fires. And these horrific deaths and widespread human impacts from these fires are just another piece of the unfolding climate disaster (hurricanes, mudslides, drought, and more) affecting our food, water, air, and public safety from coast to coast and across the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a stark warning last month — we need to take bold and urgent action to move off of fossil fuels. In fact according to the IPCC we only have twelve years to act to avoid the worst of climate chaos.
Preparing For Our Climate Future In Spite Of Trump
The prospects of passing legislation in this dysfunctional Congress and with this awful president are slim, but you cannot negotiate with science. If we want to have a livable planet we will need a bold and aggressive national mobilization to a 100% clean energy future. This will require federal legislation. With Mitch McConnell in charge of the Senate and Donald Trump as president, we will have to wait until 2021 to implement anything, but it is critical that we spend the next two years building the political power required to make that happen.
The new members coming into Congress and the movement that elected them are our best hope. During new member week at the Capitol, hundreds of people with the Sunrise Movement staged a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office calling for a Green New Deal. They were joined by Representative-elect Rashida Tlaib, who spoke at a pre-action rally outside the Capitol, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spoke in solidarity with them from within Pelosi’s office.
The Show Of Support Around A “Green New Deal”
The concept of a Green New Deal is inspiring — it combines a vision of renewable energy with good paying jobs and social equity. The backbone for what must be included in any Green New Deal exists in the form of the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act), which was introduced last September by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and currently has 45 co-sponsors. Among other things, it mandates a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in electricity and transit by 2035, with 80 percent of that shift happening within ten years. It defines “renewable energy” as only truly clean energy like solar and wind rather than existing programs that also count dirty energy sources like garbage incineration; it places a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects; and it provides for a just transition for fossil fuel workers and impacted communities.
Last October, Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first Congressional candidates to pledge to support the OFF Act if elected, and several other newly elected members pledged to do the same, including Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Deb Haaland, Katie Hill, Harley Rouda, Susan Wild, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and Kim Schrier. Others like Ayanna Pressley and Chuy Garcia have not talked about the OFF Act specifically, but have taken strong stands to move off fossil fuels. Two other OFF Act supporters, Katie Porter and Gil Cisneros, may still win their elections in Southern California where ballots are still being counted.
This group has not only pledged to take bold climate action, but — if the Freshman Orientation action by Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib are any indication — will not simply accept what others tell them is political reality. They will be fighting to change that reality and to secure the climate future we need to survive.
We Can And Must Write A New Climate Future Into Reality
When Food & Water Watch and our allies stood with Congresswoman Gabbard to introduce the OFF Act, we were joined by just four original bill co-sponsors. At the time of publication there are 45 members of Congress and over 450 organizations supporting the OFF Act. Now, a new wave of support for climate action is about to sweep over the House.
If we are to maintain a livable planet — if we are to avoid worsening fires, hurricanes, and drought — we need to move off fossil fuels beginning now. But this will only happen if we continue to build a powerful movement that is organizing across the country, district by district, to make it happen. We’ve seen a glimpse of what can happen with the election of a new influx of climate champions in the House. Now we need to build on this over the next two years so we are well positioned to make a Green New Deal a reality in 2021. Add your support to the OFF Act now — we need everyone with us to turn this around in time.