Weekly Democratic Address
November 30, 2019
Hi, I’m Congressman Sean Casten from Illinois’ 6th district.
This weekend, I am proud to travel to Madrid, Spain, as part of a Congressional Delegation to the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference. We will be there to represent the United States Congress and to send a clear message that we understand the existential threat that is the climate crisis.
The climate crisis is the greatest test we have ever faced, but it’s also an opportunity.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution concentrations are already well above the 350-ppm level that – not that long ago – was understood to be the cap we had to stay under. Several feet of additional sea level rise are already guaranteed, and several tipping points have already been passed.
In the final analysis, we will be judged not by our colleagues or even our voters, but by our grandchildren. We owe them a climate that is as stable as the one we inherited from those who came before us. That will require massive, coordinated, international action. And that is our test.
But the climate crisis is also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity because the biggest source of carbon pollution is burning fossil fuel, which costs money.
Lowering carbon pollution saves money. Every solar panel, every electric vehicle, every reinsulated home represents a financial investment that also provides a more stable climate for our children. As Amory Lovins says, people don’t want coal or oil. They want warm showers and cold beers.
Every time we invest in projects to give us useful, clean energy with less purchased fuel input, we make ourselves wealthier and help our environment. That is our opportunity.
In 1988, the United States ratified the Montreal Protocol, using market mechanisms to reduce ozone-destroying compounds. That was the direct result of leadership. Leadership from the Reagan and Bush administrations it should be noted.
That idea was subsequently incorporated into the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act to lower acid-rain forming compounds. And in both cases, we proved that economic and environmental policy can work in harmony with one another to avert environmental disaster.
Unfortunately, the United States has failed to bring that leadership to greenhouse gas emissions. Even worse, we have walked away from the international agreements that would do so.
And while House Democrats joined together to pass H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, sending a clear message that just like the thousands of localities, cities and U.S. companies, we are still in on the Paris Agreement, Senate Republicans and the President have met this historic effort with inaction and a resounding silence. That is not leadership. It is cowardice.
It’s also dangerous. Half of all the carbon pollution we have ever emitted as a species has been released since 1988.
Since the year we signed the Montreal Protocol. Since the year Bruce Springsteen played ‘Chimes of Freedom’ in front of a still-standing Berlin Wall. Since the year that James Hansen testified to the U.S. Senate that global warming was, in fact, already well underway.
But the greatness of the United States – and our greatest gift to the world – is our leadership. We are not perfect, but since World War II, there has been no greater advocate for equality, for the rule of law and for international peace than the United States.
We have the ability – no, we have the moral obligation – to lead in this moment as well.
The times have found us, and we will not shirk from our responsibilities. That will be our message to our allies in Madrid, and that is our charge moving forward.
House Democrats will continue leading For the People: to lower health costs and prescription drug prices; to raise wages by rebuilding the infrastructure of America in a green, resilient, transformative way; and to clean up corruption and make Washington work for you.
With optimism, with patriotism, but with a fierce and unbending commitment to the urgency we face, we will lead.