Barely a days pass by without a new report saying that climate change is happening faster, “It’s a really worrisome picture.”


America is making real and substantive progress in the fight against climate change, but it’s not enough. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If the United States does not make deep reductions in carbon pollution today, our children and their children will inherit climate chaos tomorrow.

As I prepare to retire from NRDC and hand the reins over to our incoming presidentRhea Suh, I have been reflecting on how the climate movement can secure the solutions we need to protect future generations from harm. In my view, here are issues we need to keep in mind.

The Clean Energy Future Is Dawning
Climate change deniers would have us believe that oil, gas, and coal are the only ways to power a modern, industrialized society. They are wrong, and the proof is all around us. Wind and solar power accounted for 44 percent of all new electricity generating capacity installed in this country between 2012 and 2013. Energy efficiency measures have done more to meet growing energy needs in the past 40 years than oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power combined, and they can do much more than that. Over 3.4 million Americans make have jobs helping build a more sustainable future. It’s time to celebrate these advances. They show we can cut carbon pollution and power our economy at the same time.

The Fossil Fuel Industry Is On the Defense
The fossil fuel industry commands outsize sway over US politics, markets, and democracy. I knew these companies were formidable, but when I served on the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, I got a close up view of how the industry disregards government safeguards. The industry is now working hard to thwart climate action, but its grip is loosening. Companies spend millions on polluter-friendly messaging, yet nearly two-thirds of Americans say they want their US senators to support efforts to address the impacts of climate change, according to a new poll from Harstad Strategic Research. And Governor Cuomo just banned fracking in New York State, refusing to bow to pressure from oil and gas companies.

People Care When the Issue Hits Home
People are seeing firsthand what extreme weather can do to their homes, livelihoods, and health. And more people face the hazards of reckless oil and gas development in their backyards: One out of every 20 Americans lives within a mile of a fracked well. Some communities, including low-income communities and people of color, are being especially hard hit. As people begin to see the links between their daily lives and fossil fuel pollution, they start calling for stronger protections. Like many recent polls, an ABC/Washington Post survey found that 70 percent of Americans support federal action to reduce climate change pollution.

Raising Our Voices Makes a Difference
People often ask me how I remain hopeful, and the answer is simple: seeing millions of people engage in the climate fight. A broad coalition of dedicated citizens succeeded in hitting pause on the Keystone XL pipeline. I was proud to join more than 400,000 people in New York City last September for the largest march in history to demand climate action and climate justice. President Obama called on the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon pollution from power plants because he knew many Americans would support his leadership. He was right: people filed more than 8 million comments in favor of the limits–the most the agency has ever received. I’ve learned over the years that the biggest environmental breakthroughs come when we have the broadest support. That support is growing for climate action.

We Have to Translate People Power into Political Power
The only way people can wrest power from the polluters is by speaking out. We have to hold lawmakers accountable when they fail to protect families from climate change. We have to applaud champions who stand up for clean energy. We have to broaden the movement to reflect all communities impacted by the climate crisis. And we have to help make our voices heard in Washington, because GOP leaders are trying to thwart climate action at every turn, and we need a groundswell of support to push back. If we mobilize, we can tilt the political landscape in favor of people instead of polluters.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s