Big problems call for big solutions. Only the United States Congress, the legislative body of the one of the largest emitters of carbon pollution, can make the sweeping changes that will transform our economy from fossil fuels to clean energy. Congress needs to step up and do its part to address climate change. Those of us who will be affected by climate change, which is to say all of us, need to hold Congress to a higher standard than just more gridlock and denial.
Those of us in the “AARP set,” those 50 years and over, the baby boomers especially, need to lead this charge. Boomers know from past experience that change always involves a hard struggle and perseverance. Those 50 years and over register and vote a higher rate than any other age group and thus command more political power. Sure, money is powerful in politics but so are organized, dedicated citizens with the savvy that comes with years of experience and skills honed over decades.
There is great work being done in US states and cities to address climate change but we are not ready to let Congress off the hook. Yes, at the moment, the politics are not in our favor but that is reason to double our efforts, not to give up. The effects of climate change are progressive. Attitudes that seem entrenched now can and will change as the crisis grows and the effects become more “local” and more acute. What was once about polar bears and stronger hurricanes is quickly becoming about property values, disaster spending and drought. Soon enough it will be about food prices, refugees, diseases appearing were they have never been before and fights over water, just to name a few.
As these things start to happen the political pressure will build. Will Conservative’s suddenly proclaim, “we were wrong all along?” Probably not. Certainly not while there is money to be made from an energy status quo. Moreover, Conservatives are people and people are proud by nature and all of us have a need to save face. As this crisis becomes impossible to deny, what we will probably see is a situation where Conservatives will just stop resisting efforts to address the problem without admitting there is a problem. We have already seen this happening in the most recent budget where, without much fanfare, there were provisions to protect and promote clean energy technologies. That budget was passed by a Republican-controlled house.
A lot of promises were made by our country in Paris at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) this past December to fight climate change. For better of worse, the fulfillment of those promises goes through one body, the US Congress. In our system, power is shared between the three branches. We can’t expect that president can do it all. Congress can do so much more and like our Judicial system, Congress can also stand in the way of progress.
Your representative to this body is just a phone call or a few clicks away. Sadly, very few will take advantage of this amazing privilege. What this means, however, is that your voice will carry more weight with these legislators because they know you are informed, interested and you will consider their response to this crisis when you vote.
Let’s get to work!