BY REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO.)
President Barack Obama revealed the Clean Power Plan to the world in 2015. Obama referred to the proposal as “a moral obligation” and rightfully labeled it "the single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change.”
Obama’s sentiments were shared by a host of bipartisan congressional leaders, particularly my colleagues on the Safe Climate Caucus. And hundreds of multinational companies supported the plan. But instead of embracing this widespread consensus and building on meaningful progress, the Trump administration would rather jeopardize America’s global leadership and public health by moving backwards.
The Environmental Protection Agency, now under the environmentally-insensitive leadership of Scott Pruitt, seeks to undermine our nation’s top scientists and the EPA’s legal obligation by proposing the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The EPA administrator’s sin is his willfully unconscious hijacking of future generations’ ability to drink unsoiled water and breathe unpolluted air.
We must not let this happen. With the EPA holding listening sessions across the country – one most recently in my district, the 5th District of Missouri – we must use this opportunity to take a stand for the environment and the well-being of our communities.
In some ways it is irrelevant whether you believe in climate change or the idea that humans are contributing to climate change, because we are all certainly paying for its effects. In the words of Ben Franklin, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Though a vocal minority have yet to embrace the facts that climate research has found, we must take action to mitigate these growing costs.
We all have been haunted by the disheartening images from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. And we have seen footage of the damage caused by the devastating wildfires in California. This is all a result of climate change, which is exacerbated by carbon pollution. If we ignore this fact, the frequency and severity of extreme weather will exponentially increase, leaving hardworking taxpayers to foot the bill. And even more tragic will be the loss of life.
As a parent and grandfather, I cannot help but also think of the environmental consequences that repealing the Clean Power Plan will have on children. At a time when many families are already on the brink, repealing this proposal would lead to more sick kids, higher asthma rates, more expensive hospital visits and thousands of premature deaths.
And to make matters worse, the public health outcomes as a result of pollution are disproportionately worse for people of color.
America, we have a moral obligation to get this right.
As proclaimed in the gospel of Matthew, I believe that our country will ultimately be defined by how we treat the least of these. Will the health outcomes of children and the sorrow of displaced families be taken into account in the future of America’s environmental policy? Our global stature starts with correctly answering these questions.
I commend groups like Moms Clean Air Force, Green for All, and others for holding Administrator Pruitt accountable and ensuring that all Americans have a voice in the environmental space. But we must also keep pushing forward. We must stand up, we must fight for future generations, and we must act on climate.
Turning our back on the Clean Power Plan is dangerous. The world is in desperate need of American leadership and innovation, and we cannot afford to ignore or delude our way out of this current crisis.
Cleaver represents Missouri's 5th District.
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