If you accept modern science, you cannot deny the combined weight of over 10,000 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which tell us climate change is happening, that human activity is a driving factor in rising temperatures, and the consequences are extremely serious.
If you fight wildfires, farm, run a ski resort, or live in a low-lying coastal area, you are already living with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis.
All of these studies and experiences are telling us the same thing: carbon pollution produced by human activities is warming the Earth. It is driving more extreme weather events, more heat waves and droughts, longer and more intense wildfires, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification.
The United States is a major contributor to global carbon pollution. We have a moral responsibility to mitigate where we can, and to place sensible limits on our emissions.
Transitioning to a low carbon future will not just help stave off the worst impacts of climate change, it will also help to grow the “green economy,” create thousands of jobs, and save money in the long run.
In 1993, as a member of the City Council, I was proud to help Portland, Oregon became the first U.S. city to adopt a plan to address global warming by reducing emissions. In 2009, I strongly supported the City as it adopted one of the most aggressive emissions reductions programs in the country, agreeing to slash emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The plan is working: as of 2012 greenhouse gas emissions are now 11% below 1990 levels and down 33% per person, even though population has grown 30% over that time. And the number of jobs is up 18% since 1990—notably in the areas of energy efficiency, green building design and construction, renewable energy development, and residential and commercial building weatherization.
Today the Administration took an important step forward in the fight against climate change – with new clean air safeguards that will cut carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time.
This is crucial for public health. Climate change will bring increased extreme weather, worsening air quality and increase threats to illnesses that will threaten our health and safety.
Over the long-term, we will need a permanent legislative solution – such as a carbon tax – to reduce our emissions and the impacts of climate change.
Yet climate change presents us with a significant opportunity to transform our economy and infrastructure to be more efficient, cost effective, and resilient to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Today marks a bold first step that moves us in a new direction.