The American people – not Big Oil – must decide our climate future | Senator Bernie Sanders and Mark Jacobson

Bernie Sanders and Mark Jacobson
‘Jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors’ Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The debate facing our world today is not whether we need to address climate change. That debate is far, far behind us. The issue is how to address climate change – as quickly and effectively as possible.

Virtually the entire scientific community – more than 99% of peer-reviewed studies – has concluded that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And the impacts are devastating.

According to a study published Monday by the National Academy of Science, climate change is already causing severe weather events like prolonged droughts, record-high temperatures, and rising sea levels because of melting Artic sea ice. And while everyone will be affected by climate change, the people who had least to do with causing the problem will be impacted the most, including low income families and communities of color across America.

That is why we must aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions like energy efficiency, solar, wind and geothermal energy, and electric vehicles.

Here’s the good news: the global community is moving in the right direction. Solar panels cost 80% less today than they did in 2008. The solar industry has grown every year for the past decade. In fact, nearly one fifth of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, renewable resources like the sun and wind.

No matter what agenda President Trump and his administration of climate deniers push, it is clear that jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors. The number of workers maintaining wind turbines in the US is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around the world, more than 9.4 million people already work in the renewable energy sector. These are the jobs of the future.

Not only does renewable energy help fight climate change and create jobs, but it’s also good for public health. Cutting carbon pollution emissions by just 32% by 2030 would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year.

We’re beginning to transition to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

University researchers and the non-profit Solutions Project have mapped out how we can achieve a 100% clean, renewable energy future for all 50 US states and 139 countries by 2050. With their research, governments in the US and around the world can learn exactly how to break dependence on fossil fuel, why we don’t need fracking and how we can move aggressively in terms of sustainable energy and energy efficiency.

Now is the time for taking swift, aggressive action.

This week, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and I, Bernie Sanders, together with Senators Ed Markey and Cory Booker, introduced a bill that is a major step forward in addressing the climate crisis. The bill, which is strongly supported by the Solutions Project and other major environmental organizations, would transition the US toward a completely clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation.

Not only is this possible and affordable, but it will also create millions of decent-paying, long-term and full-time jobs that our economy desperately needs. It would clean-up our air and water. And it would decrease our dependence on foreign oil and improve national security.

Most Americans know that Congress is way out of touch with where the American people are. The Koch brothers and the fossil fuels industry are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign contributions to keep it that way. Too many members of Congress now worry more about the interests of the oil, gas, and coal companies than the interests of their constituents and the wellbeing of the planet.

The only way we will defeat organized money is to organize through people power. We must stand up and demand that Congress put people over the profits of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC and all over the world on Saturday is so enormously important.

When millions of people in every country in the world demand that their government work to transition our energy systems away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy, we will win. That’s what today is about, and that’s what tomorrow must be about. We must keep up the fight for our children and future generations to come.

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