The time is now to act to curb climate change

Op-ed By Chellie Pingree | Jun 22, 2019

In its first 100 days, the 116th Congress moved swiftly to counteract eight years of inaction on climate change. House committees have held dozens of hearings on how to address the climate crisis — a strong contrast from the previous majority, which never held a single hearing on this urgent threat to our health, economy, and environment. And the Green New Deal outlined an ambitious blueprint to move the nation from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

With all of the movement to address climate change in Congress, I am working hard to make sure farmers have a seat at the table. I’ve been an organic farmer for more than 40 years. Many have been helping to mitigate climate change, but they need the support of policymakers to advance sustainable practices and continue to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. From supporting soil health and pasture-based livestock systems to investing in on-farm and rural energy and protecting farmland, there is a role for Congress to play in ensuring our food supply doesn’t add to greenhouse gas emissions.

Ensuring our coastal economies have the tools to mitigate climate change must also be a priority for this Congress. Ocean acidification is one of the worst side effects of climate change. Almost 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by our oceans. And as our oceans get warmer, the actual composition of our oceans change along with the way our aquatic plants and animals grow. This is posing a huge threat to coastal communities across the nation. Fisheries, working waterfronts and tourism will all be affected by changing waters; our economy will suffer.

Lobster workers in Belfast, ME. Their profession could be endangered by ocean acidification. photo: Ramona du Houx

That’s why I introduced the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2019, which would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study the socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification on coastal communities nationwide.

I recently had the opportunity to question the secretary of the Department of Interior, which oversees the health of our public lands and resources. Of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States, 614 million acres are managed by the Department of the Interior. Sadly, when I asked Secretary Bernhardt about how Interior is acting on climate change and why he has so many science-related job vacancies in his department, he said it wasn’t his job to deal with climate change. I disagree wholeheartedly — I believe mitigating climate change is part of the preservation of our public lands and requires that all hands be on deck now.

I have deep concerns with the Trump administration’s disregard for our environment and disdain for science. From Secretary Bernhardt’s irresponsibility on climate action and EPA Administrator Wheeler’s rollback of Obama-era climate policies to the president’s retreat from the Paris Climate Agreement one year ago, I’m firmly committed to standing up to their short-sighted views on climate change. That’s why I cosponsored HR.9, the Climate Action Now Act.

When the Trump administration rolled back the Paris Agreement last year, it meant the effects of climate change would only become worse in my home state of Maine. For Maine and so many communities in our country, climate change isn’t an abstraction — it is a very real threat to local economies and to the way of life we all enjoy. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of any other bodies of water on the planet. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed HR.9, recommitting to the Paris Agreement and to working with other nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We must fully commit to taking on the climate crisis before it’s too late for our planet.

I stand firmly committed to curbing climate change and I’m thankful to have so many wonderful partners in the fight. This is an issue we can’t wait on. For our children and our grandchildren, I’m acting for our future now.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-North Haven, represents Maine's 1st District in the U.S. Congress.