Addressing global climate change should be a non-partisan issue. The data is clear – average ocean temperatures are changing, polar ice is melting, and weather is getting more extreme. The cumulative effects of decades of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions mean that our forests are at greater risk of wildfires, coastal states are more likely to experience powerful hurricanes, and communities in the heartlands will experience more flooding.
New Jersey experienced these impacts first-hand in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy came to our shores and devastated our communities. If we don’t act to address climate change, these storms will only become more frequent and more powerful.
Even our nation’s defense intelligence community agrees – its 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment included warnings about climate change being “likely to fuel competition for our resources, economic distress, and social disruption through 2019 and beyond.”
Our country has the technology to do something about this. Now we have to act.
National Climate Policy
As a Member of Congress, I have been working to address climate change through legislative efforts and the yearly government appropriations process. I have co-sponsored and voted for:
- H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, requiring the President to develop and annually update a plan for the U.S. to meet its contributions to the Paris Climate Agreements. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on May 2, 2019.
- H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, prohibiting the federal government from giving out oil and gas drilling leases to companies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on September 12, 2019.
- H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, prohibiting the federal government from giving out oil and gas drilling leases to companies in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. This bill was passed by the House of Representatives on September 12, 2019.
Reducing Emissions in Our Communities
During the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process, I led a letter that was signed by 46 Representatives to the House Appropriations Committee urging more funding for the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalitions program. This program helps cities and municipalities finance the purchase of clean service vehicles – such as police patrol cars and garbage trucks – and install green transportation technology to service them. Organizations in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District have used this program to replace old diesel trash trucks with new clean energy vehicles.
Climate change is a serious issue that has the potential to be devastating to New Jersey, to the entire United States, and to the world as a whole. No reasonable person disputes this fact, and the 2017 hurricane season has demonstrated this urgent need to address it. The 2017 hurricanes killed dozens in the United States and the Caribbean, uprooted hundreds of lives, and wrought billions of dollars in damage. Storms like these, and like the Superstorm that struck New Jersey in 2012, will become more common as the ocean and atmosphere continue to warm.
Over the past ten years, our country has taken great strides in the effort to curb the impact of climate change by enforcing emissions standards at home and by leading the world in planning for a future where we are not all dependent on fossil fuels. In 2015, the world celebrated the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, France. This Climate Agreement marked the first coordinated international effort to reduce global carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. The United States joined 194 countries in agreeing to lower its carbon emissions and to assist still-developing nations to transition away from burning fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, President Trump has decided that the United States of America will cede its leadership role in this historic effort to address one of the most important challenges of our generation by withdrawing our commitments from the Paris Climate Accords. This short-sighted and selfish act not only damages our nation’s credibility abroad, but it also endangers the future of our planet for the sake of scoring political points.
Yet there is still hope. States and cities around the country have remained committed to achieving their own emissions reductions plans, and they are being joined by companies that are dedicated to these goals. The international community will also continue working towards the goal of advancing clean technology.
The United States is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. If we get serious about addressing climate change and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rest of the world will follow. Congress, as the nation’s legislative arm, has a role to play in this effort and I will continue supporting efforts to restore the American commitment to addressing climate change.
More on Climate Change
Last week, I cosponsored legislation to guarantee funding for parks in urban areas and keep our national parks clean and joined a letter to urge House leadership to use the Build Back Better Act to end offshore oil drilling.
Last week, I attended a resources event in Elizabeth with Mayor Chris Bollwage to speak with residents impacted by Tropical Storm Ida and worked with the Biden administration to request that Union, Essex, and Hudson counties be added to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster declaration in New Jersey. Last Friday, FEMA announced that these counties would be added to the disaster declaration, making residents eligible for FEMA resources to rebuild their homes and businesses.
This week, we unfortunately lost members of our community because of the flooding and intense winds and rains of Tropical Storm Ida. I am very grateful to the brave first responders who provided lifesaving aid to those in need. It will take time to recover from the devastation of this storm, especially for those who have lost friends and family members.
Throughout last week, I watched the developing situation in Afghanistan closely, and my office assisted in evacuation efforts for constituents who have family members in the country. Earlier in the week, the House passed H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act and H.Res.601, to begin consideration of the budget resolution.
(Washington, D.C.) – Last week, Congressmen Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Christopher Smith (NJ-04), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) introduced the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Recently, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report detailing the widespread and intensifying effects of climate change. We can now say with certainty that climate change is not a problem for the distant future, but a crisis which deserves our immediate action and focus. With that in mind, I have joined my colleagues in supporting several important pieces of legislation this Congress to address the effects of climate change and expand our mitigation and sustainability efforts.
Last week, I cosponsored legislation to ensure that students have access to a computer and the internet for online learning. I also joined a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture to urge better protection of animals during emergencies and a letter to Congressional leadership to urge for more funding to be provided for electric vehicles in the reconciliation package.
This week, I wrote an op-ed calling for more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. I also cosponsored several important pieces of legislation to support the resiliency of coastal ecosystems, encourage students to study STEM, remove taxes on diapers, research the effects of technology on the cognitive development of children, reduce noise pollution from airports, continue to provide expanded access to mammograms, and support veterans who were discharged due to their sexual orientation.
This week, I voted to pass the Divided Family Reunification Act, the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act, the Allies Act, and the PFAS Action Act. I also cosponsored legislation to incentivize renewable energy investments, establish a strategy to manage biodiversity loss, raise awareness for black maternal mental health, and streamline access to health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. As Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, I led a hearing on the historic protests and repression of free expression in Cuba.
This week, I spoke in solidarity with the Cuban people who are protesting the Castro/Diaz-Canel dictatorship in Cuba, and thanked President Biden for showing the United States’ clear support for democracy on the island. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a markup and a hearing where I asked USAID Administrator Samantha Power to do all that is possible to advance critical democracy and human rights programming on the island.