Elevating Urgency of Climate Change, Limiting Carbon Pollution and Investing in Infrastructure Should Be Part of Comprehensive Agenda
WASHINGTON, DC (December 20, 2012) As Congress continues to debate an aid package for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, the BlueGreen Alliance urged President Obama to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront of national debate in a joint statement from its partners. The full text of the letter to the President is available online here and the joint statement urging three specific actions of the President appears below.
Help Wanted on Climate Change
“As Americans from all walks of life pick up from the wreckage and disruption of Hurricane Sandy, we urge continued and much-needed emergency relief be provided to New York and New Jersey and to the families who have lost so much as a result. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them, many of whom are members of our organizations. We stand with them as they recover from this devastating event. In doing so, we also urge our fellow citizens and policy makers to reflect on the consequences of ignoring the reality of climate change. Initial estimates of losses from this one storm have already doubled from $20 billion to over $50 billion. This number will undoubtedly increase.
“Going forward, we cannot ignore another opportunity to engage as a nation in confronting the staggering costs of climate change. In 2006, Sir Nicholas Stern, the award- winning British economist, published his landmark study on the economic consequences of global warming. Stern’s advice was clear and unequivocal. The costs of confronting climate change now — preparing for those events we cannot avoid while mitigating the worst effects by dramatically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions — would slow the growth of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by one-half to 1 percent. However, the consequences of doing nothing would result in a reduction of global GDP by at least 5 percent per year on an ongoing basis. The costs of inaction are real and mounting, as the recent wave of extreme weather events across the world makes clear.
“The dramatic impact of Hurricane Sandy can and should be the end point of our confusion on the central questions concerning climate change: It is real, it is accelerated by human actions, and if we fail to preempt its frightening costs, we will imperil our economic future.
“We ask our fellow Americans to join with us in urging our leaders to move forward in three substantial ways.
First, we urge President Obama to elevate the urgency of climate change and to foster a conversation with leaders from all walks of life and all political perspectives to develop a national strategy to put Americans back to work by continuing to reduce carbon pollution. For too long, our environmental imperatives were falsely seen as standing in conflict with the economic aspirations of all Americans. It is critical that the administration and the next Congress solve these problems in harmony.
“Second, we call on the President and his administration to continue the work of the Environmental Protection Agency in limiting carbon pollution as required by the Clean Air Act under the authority affirmed by the Supreme Court in its 2007 ruling. It is imperative that the United States be a partner and a leader in the global effort to prevent disastrous climate change. The administration has put in place sweeping new vehicle clean car and fuel economy standards that will reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. The auto industry has demonstrated that clean air standards can lead to innovation, job creation, and greater competitiveness in the global economy. We need to move forward and cut emissions from new and existing power plants. We support workforce training and other measures to assure that the transition to low- or carbon-free production creates and maintains good jobs and improves our economy.
“Lastly, we urge the President and the Congress to focus on the terrible deficit in our nation’s infrastructure exposed by Hurricane Sandy and similar extreme weather events around the country. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our nation’s infrastructure a grade of D, and in many key areas, such as storm water management, a D-. ASCE estimates our five-year investment needs to be in the range of $1.5 to $2 trillion. The rising sea level on the East Coast over the last 100 years is a well-documented effect of climate change, but almost nothing has been spent on preparing for these effects. Many of our coastal cities simply cannot cope with worse storms on higher seas.
“The good news is that, in an era of low interest rates and capital surpluses, we can sensibly finance major investment in our nation’s infrastructure in a way that prepares for the climate disruptions before us. It will also create millions of jobs.
“Henry Kaiser, the engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur whose shipyards in Oakland built a battleship a day in World War II, who designed and built the Hoover Dam, and who left his name on one of the largest healthcare companies in the country, once said, “Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.” Now is the time for Americans to put on their work clothes, help their neighbors in the storm-ravaged Northeast, and solve the challenge of climate change. Join with us by urging our President and your members of Congress to do the same.”
Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers
Michael Brune, Sierra Club
Larry Cohen, Communications Workers of America
Peter Lehner, Natural Resources Defense Council
Mary Kay Henry, Service Employees International Union
Joseph Nigro, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation
William Hite, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry
Kevin Knobloch, Union of Concerned Scientists
Michael Langford, Utility Workers Union of America
Bob King, United Auto Workers
David Foster, BlueGreen Alliance