Celebrating Earth Day
Ever since the first Earth Day in 1970, people have gathered annually to renew their commitment to making our planet greener and healthier and to encourage their leaders to take action on critical environmental policy issues.
Today, on the 45th Earth Day celebration, energy independence and climate change are two of the most significant and complex challenges our country faces. Climate change is resulting in the long-term warming of the planet, and we face increased risks associated with extreme events, such as hurricanes, as well as floods and drought. Scientists say we need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 80 percent to avoid a dangerous climate tipping point. And as one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, our nation should be doing more at home and taking more of a leadership role in the global arena.
Climate change isn’t just a matter of higher temperatures and rising sea levels -- although the potential agricultural and environmental impacts of those elements alone is devastating. It’s also an economic challenge, and one that gets to the very heart of our nation’s long-term global competitiveness. We are at a defining moment: the countries that work to address climate change by investing in clean energy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy. Today, the U.S. is not leading as we should in clean energy, and we are at risk of falling behind. But it’s not too late to take up this challenge.
We will have to switch from getting most of our energy from burning fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, to getting much more from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower. Over the last few years, Congress has made increased investments in research on renewable and alternative energy technologies; appliance and lighting efficiency; and green building standards and jobs. Unfortunately, these investments are at risk under our current House leadership, which questions the scientific legitimacy of climate change and believes that more and riskier drilling is the answer to our nation’s quest for energy independence.
For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has worked to uphold our environmental standards, which have prevented hundreds of thousands of premature deaths per year and provided the American people with significant benefits (exceeding costs by 30 to 1!), all while growing the economy. And yet, Republicans continue to argue that regulation costs jobs and threatens America’s competitiveness. They have put EPA’s funding on the chopping block again and again, undermining the agency’s ability to successfully carry out its mission.
Our challenge today is to make public health part of the environmental conversation, as it was on the first Earth Day. We must remind Americans that environmental protection can serve as “an ounce of prevention”: that clean air means less asthma, that reducing pollution in our water reduces pollution in our bodies, that stronger chemical management means safer products for our children, and that addressing climate change will make our world a safer and healthier place to leave for decades to come.
I will continue to urge the President and my colleagues in Congress to promote policies that safeguard the environment, facilitate sound management of our natural resources, address climate change, and protect the public health. Today, let us renew our commitment to moving toward a cleaner, greener – and healthier – future. It’s time to lead!