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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) hold a news conference to introduce legislation to transform public housing as part of their Green New Deal proposal outside the U.S. Capitol November 14, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'What's Radical Is Doing Nothing': Attacked as an Extremist, Sanders Condemns GOP for Ignoring Climate Crisis at Convention

"It would be a moral disgrace if we left to future generations a planet and that was unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable."

Lisa Newcomb

As wildfires burn through California and the western United States, the Gulf Coast prepares for two potential hurricanes within a 48-hour timeframe, and record high temperatures dominate the summer, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday noted the resounding absence of any mention of the climate crisis during the first night of the Republican National Convention.

"What is radical is doing nothing to take on the existential threat of climate change while the world burns."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"You wouldn't know it if you watched the first night of the Republican National Convention, but we are in the middle of a climate emergency with scientists telling us we have just a few years to act in order to save our planet for future generations," Sanders said in an email to supporters Tuesday.

In what NowThis described as a "Carnival of Misinformation," the GOP managed to attack Sanders and other progressive political leaders Monday night, calling them "radical" and "Marxist," and to vilify the state of California—which has lost 1.4 million acres to wildfires so far this year—but failed to even mention climate or environmental concerns.

"Don't tell me the Green New Deal is radical," Sanders continued in his email. "What is radical is doing nothing to take on the existential threat of climate change while the world burns."

President Donald Trump criticized Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his state's wildfire mitigation strategies earlier this month, harkening to comments the president has made in the past about clearing forest floors of debris as the key to preventing the destruction caused across the west in recent years.

"I see again the forest fires are starting," the president said at a rally in Pennsylvania. "They're starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests—there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they're like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up." Trump went on to threaten withholding federal funds, though he did promise aid last weekend.

The president, a notorious denier of human-caused climate change, has called the crisis a "hoax invented by the Chinese."

"Here is the truth," Sanders wrote. "In the midst of everything going on right now, a global pandemic, an economic meltdown, a struggle for racial justice, and more, we simply cannot lose sight of the existential threat of climate change which puts at risk the very survival of this planet."

The senator from Vermont, a champion of the Green New Deal, warned that the time of incremental action in dealing with the climate crisis has passed.

"We cannot go far enough or be too aggressive on this issue," he said.

Sanders isn't the only one who noticed the RNC's dismissal of environmental and climate concerns Monday night. Conservative climate activist Benji Backer expressed his frustration on Twitter, saying he's "feeling as disenfranchised as ever."

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), whom League of Conservation Voters gives a 3% rating on its environmental scorecard, told attendees at an unrelated event Monday that his party has to start taking the climate crisis seriously. 

"As a conservative, I regret that we have let ourselves be branded as not caring about the Earth," Curtis said. "It's time to stop being on the defensive and go on the offensive."

He continued: "We don't need to destroy the U.S. economy to be successful. As a matter of fact, I believe a once-in-a-generation opportunity is in front of us."

But Curtis remains in the minority of Republican lawmakers, and, Sanders wrote, tackling the climate crisis is a duty we share as global citizens.

"We are custodians of the Earth," he wrote. "All of us. And it would be a moral disgrace if we left to future generations a planet and that was unhealthy, unsafe, and uninhabitable."


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