This is the last presidential election before it’s too late to change course on climate change. Voters have one last chance to elect a president and members of Congress who will face the climate crisis and take steps to address it.
The challenges today are unprecedented. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic where millions in the United States have been infected and even more have lost their jobs, their businesses, and any semblance of the daily life we all had taken for granted. Climate change is another unprecedented crisis. The western United States has been consumed by horrible fires caused by climate change. A series of fires and droughts has ravaged my home state Nevada.
Science denial has, for decades, motivated Republicans in Congress to block action on climate change. This denial is now on full display in President Donald Trump’s catastrophic failure to manage climate change and COVID-19. The consequences for our country in Trump ignoring both of these scourges are apparent.
Problems fueled by climate change
We recognize that climate change is a common thread running through so many of our problems today. Climate-fueled natural disasters are costing our government billions of dollars each year. As the impact of Mother Nature intensifies, government budgets continue to dramatically increase. Furthermore, scientists say the more humans encroach on wildlife habitats or as these habitats are altered or destroyed due to our changing climate, then the more likely it is that pandemics like COVID-19 will occur.
Today’s pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing medical issues such as asthma and other respiratory diseases caused by poor air quality. Chemical facilities, many of which are adjacent to communities of color, are causing untoward sickness and death. These communities have been subject to environmental injustices for decades, and now they are dying of COVID-19 in greater numbers as well.
There is still time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change if we act now. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris have a transformational plan to invest $2 trillion in clean energy infrastructure so we can achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035. In Senate races across the country, voters from Alaska to Colorado to South Carolina are showing strong support for candidates running on climate action, clean energy and conservation.
With a new president and a new Congress, there will be opportunity to pass bold solutions to combat our environmental and economic problems. A comprehensive clean energy infrastructure bill will create jobs and jump start our economy, reduce carbon emissions, and improve air quality. We’re dealing with a historic opportunity and we must not allow Senate Republicans to thwart the will of the American people.
Embrace and solve this problem
Climate change should not be a partisan issue. Former Sen. John Ensign was a conservative Republican, but he and I worked together to pass legislation to benefit our state of Nevada, including the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act that created wilderness, promoted clean energy, and created new jobs.
In a Biden presidency, a plan to defeat COVID-19 would be quickly implemented. With a President Biden and a newly elected Democratic Congress, the challenges of climate change would be swiftly addressed.
We must all recognize the No. 1 issue facing young men and women in America is their concern about the changing environment. Many have had their lives upended and their futures diminished by our changing climate. Americans have never shied away from challenges. In this election season, we must make our voices heard by voting for climate.
Back in the 1960s, folk singer Pete Seeger sang: “I can see a new day, a new day soon to be, when the storm clouds are all passed and the sun shines on a world that is free.” I say we need to add a new line to his song: “We will not be free until we put our arms around climate change and stop its ravages.”
Nevada Democrat Harry Reid served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2017 and was the Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015. Follow him on Twitter: @SenatorReid
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden, Harris and new Congress will act quickly on the climate crisis