After Democratic leaders signaled in the lead-up to last week's midterms that they have no plans to pursue the kind of bold climate agenda that the latest science says is required to avoid planetary catastrophe, environmental groups are ramping up pressure on the incoming House Democratic majority to show real leadership by investigating the corporations that caused the climate crisis and pursuing an ambitious green agenda to combat it.
"On November 6, a new class of progressive leaders from all over the country stepped into seats in Congress. Now, as our newly elected leaders take office, it's time for action."
—350.org"The science is clear: we need climate solutions now, and we don't have a moment to lose," 350.org declared in a petition it plans to send to Congress when it convenes in January. "We're calling on our new Congress to align their policies with science and their priorities with the moral imperative of this moment. We're calling for real climate leadership."
Such leadership, according to 350, would include ending government handouts to the fossil fuel industry, stopping all new oil and gas projects, and pushing popular legislation like a green jobs program to "hasten a just and equitable transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all."
Julian Brave NoiseCat—a 350 policy analyst who authored the petition—said the call to action has already garnered 20,000 signatures.
I wrote a petition for @350 calling on the new Congress to investigate Exxon and support visionary legislation like a Green New Deal.
It’s been signed by over 20,000 people. https://t.co/msy596ctD8?
— Julian Brave NoiseCat (@jnoisecat) November 12, 2018
Speaking to Axios on Monday, 350 co-founder and strategic communications director Jamie Henn said that investigating ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel giants that have misled the public about climate change for decades should be a "top priority" for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in the months to come.
In its petition, 350 calls on House Democrats to "hold big polluters responsible for misleading the public and wrecking the climate."
"Launch a congressional investigation into ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel corporations for propagating confusion and denial about the scientific truth of climate change and for hiding the risks posed by their business activities to the planet," the petition demands.
350's petition comes amid reports that Democratic leaders have done "precious little" to formulate a climate agenda that would end the oil industry's stranglehold on America's energy systems and begin the necessary transition to 100 percent renewable sources.
Despite warnings from environmentalists that there is no time for incrementalism, Democrats are reportedly gearing up for hearings and gradual steps rather than pushing ahead with ambitious legislation.
"Gradualism is fundamentally incompatible with protecting civilization and the natural world. It's pathetic that the Democrats are continuing to pursue this approach," Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of The Climate Mobilization, told Common Dreams last month.
But as 350 noted in a tweet over the weekend, there is some reason for hope, as last week's midterm elections saw the victories of several candidates who placed ambitious climate action at the center of their policy platforms—from New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Michigan's Rashida Tlaib.
— 350 dot org (@350) November 10, 2018
"On November 6, a new class of progressive leaders from all over the country stepped into seats in Congress," 350's petition states. "With them came the hopes and expectations of a nation of immigrants, women, people of color, disabled people, and people with medical conditions, and everyone who's ready to fight for a safe climate and just future for all of us. Now, as our newly elected leaders take office, it's time for action."
Read 350.org's full petition, and sign it here:
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sounded the alarm. We have a decade to prevent catastrophic warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the target set by world leaders in the Paris Agreement.
That means we must phase out fossil fuels and scale up clean, renewable energy as fast as possible—and it will be crucial that the next Congress take action and show real climate leadership to make that transition happen.
The costs of inaction are already devastating. In recent years, unprecedented climate-change-fueled hurricanes, floods and fires have taken lives and livelihoods, leveled homes and cities costing taxpayers over $350 billion in economic damages from Puerto Rico to California and Houston to New York City, according to the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog.
We know who is responsible: President Trump's billionaire friends in the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel corporations are far and away the largest contributors to anthropogenic climate change. Through concerted disinformation campaigns designed to confuse the public, buy off politicians and stymie climate action, Big Coal, Oil, and Gas executives have rigged our democracy to pad their pockets at the expense of the public and the planet we share.
But they cannot hold back the truth forever, and the benefits of bold climate action are becoming clearer by the day. A just and equitable energy transition has the potential to put millions of Americans to work in good green jobs, bring our neglected infrastructure into the 21st century and position the United States as a global leader in clean energy technologies. If we act now, we can rein in emissions, create opportunity for communities damaged by the fossil fuel industry and climate disasters and build a healthy and prosperous nation. The world as we know it depends on you.
We are writing to you as everyday people—workers, scientists, faith leaders, mothers, fathers, activists, businesspeople, children, men, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Indigenous peoples and much more. We have marched in the streets of New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. We have stopped the Keystone XL pipeline—twice—and will stop it again if TransCanada tries to build it. And we have advocated for common-sense climate solutions at all levels of government, from city halls to the White House. As elected officials, you are accountable to us.
In this fight—a fight that will define human civilization—we have done our part. And now it's time for you to do yours: align your policies with science, and your priorities with the moral imperative of this moment. Be a real climate leader.
Specifically, a real climate leader must:
- Cut ties with the fossil fuel corporations rigging our democracy.
- Sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge taken by more than 1,200 candidates and elected officials, and refuse all donations from fossil fuel corporations.
- End all government handouts that benefit polluting coal, oil and gas corporations.
- Divest all public funds from fossil fuel corporations that imperil our planet and our economy.
- Support visionary legislation like a Green New Deal to create millions of good green jobs and hasten a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy for all.
- Serious climate policy must prioritize the frontline communities and workers left behind and endangered by the fossil fuel industry.
- Stop all new coal, oil and gas projects.
- The UN IPCC report, informed by thousands of leading scientific studies, shows that fossil fuel expansion is fundamentally incompatible with a livable climate.
- Use your power as a legislator to stop Trump’s big polluter agenda.
- Hold big polluters responsible for misleading the public and wrecking the climate.
- Launch a congressional investigation into ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel corporations for propagating confusion and denial about the scientific truth of climate change and for hiding the risks posed by their business activities to the planet.
The above actions are the true litmus test of elected officials who take climate change seriously. But climate change is also a cross-cutting issue that impacts everything from public health to immigration, financial regulation to economic inequality, education to national security and transportation to housing. We expect you to stand with us, the people, and immediately address the causes and the symptoms of the climate crisis.
Real climate leaders must fight the Trump agenda every step of the way and take action to prepare all levels of government and society for this crisis. We are ready. We are resilient. We are real climate leaders. Are you?