World leaders from over 190 countries are meeting right now in Paris to develop global plans to reduce carbon emissions and overcome the threat of climate change. With 2015 shaping up to be the hottest year ever recorded, these talks are more urgent than ever. Extreme conditions are no longer a forecast—they are happening now. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. A more diverse international coalition is calling for action.
The impacts of our warming globe are already plain to see, from raging floods to extended droughts, from heat waves to rising sea levels. Food scarcity, extreme weather, and increased conflict are projected to displace millions, making the refugee crisis we see now just a glimpse of what is in store. While no nation or people are safe from the reach of global warming, the poor are particularly susceptible to harm. Developing countries that lack the means for an adequate response and underserved communities in the United States share this terrible reality in common: They are climate change’s first victims.
The enormity of this threat is not lost on the global community. Few issues, if any, bridge disparate voices the way climate change does. Voices in small communities and large, artists and the scientific community are calling for a comprehensive solution.
The climate talks in Paris are proof that leaders from the farthest reaches of the globe hear their calls and are prepared to work for the protection of the planet. Despite this, some congressional Republicans would rather shut down our government yet again than be a part of the solution. We cannot afford to let them—or the deep-pocketed special interests bankrolling their campaigns—sideline the United States in one of the most significant undertakings of the 21st century.
The Paris talks are an opportunity for the United States to lead on a global stage and secure jobs (and entire industries, in fact) developing the energy sources of tomorrow. And while some Republicans would rather partner with lobbyists for fossil-fuel companies to double down on the policies that brought us to this point, there is an effort on Capitol Hill right now to ensure we rise to meet this challenge.
Last Monday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) introduced an ambitious climate-change resolution calling for goals of near-zero emissions by 2050, 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050. The resolution covers everything from emission goals to job programs for American workers. It also seeks to unify activists, organizations, the scientific community, and elected officials around our common survival.
Setting these priorities will help us avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, and reshape our economy by creating millions of jobs. For example, shifting from landfills to recycling or composting will create 10 times more jobs than landfilling, while also reducing emissions. New renewable energy industries can provide opportunities for Americans who are unemployed or underemployed communities to work and receive the fair wages that have long eluded them. These solutions will deliver us the clean- energy revolution that our country desperately needs.
Climate change is the most pressing global issue of our time, and we must leave a world worth inheriting. This is a unique opportunity for us to build a cleaner, more just, and more peaceful world. The CPC’s climate resolution provides each member of Congress an opportunity to support these essential policies. The global movement to address climate change is building, and it will proceed without us if members of Congress do not have the vision to lead on this issue.
We have a historic opportunity for a better future. Let’s get to work.