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
Congress returned to Washington this week and began working to protect our shorelines from oil and gas drilling. Since the Senate is also back from recess, I believe it is time for Senate Majority Leader to act immediately on passing commonsense gun reform legislation already passed in the House, like H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. This week, I also met with the New Jersey Veterans of Foreign Wars and convened the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee for a hearing on deforestation in the Amazon and the recent outbreak of devastating fires.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), made the following statement regarding the House of Representatives passing coastal protection legislation:
(Washington, D.C.) –Congressman Sires, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, delivered today the following opening remarks at the subcommittee hearing on the fires in the Brazilian Amazon:
“There is a reason that the Amazon Rainforest is often referred to as the lungs of our planet. The 2 million square miles of rainforest traps carbon dioxide—a contributor to global warming—and releases oxygen instead. I am deeply disturbed by the severe fires ravaging the Amazon and damaging the rainforest ecosystem. If these fires are left to consume more land, the forest may no longer be able to play this crucial role of regulating global air quality and we could lose an important resource that combats climate change.
This week in Washington, the House of Representatives tackled long standing priorities of the Democratic majority including DACA, disaster relief, and the environment. I met with groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League to the National Association of Home Builders to align my work with our community’s priorities. I also introduced legislation to push back against the Administration’s misguided approach to foreign policy and attended a hearing on human rights in China.
Each year, the creation our federal government’s annual budget is a collaboration between the Executive Branch and Congress to set the course for our nation’s priorities. Initiating the process for fiscal year (FY) 2020, President Trump released his budget request on March 11, 2019 to Congress, reflecting a compilation of his administration’s experience running our federal agencies and including their priorities for the upcoming year.
Last week in Washington, I attended hearings on all three committees that I serve – Budget, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation – as well as served my first Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing as the Chairman. The House of Representatives also passed legislation addressing the President’s national emergency declaration, gun control, and the future of STEM education.