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Addressing Climate Change Should Inspire Patriotism, Not Gridlock

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Heading into the July 4th celebration of America's independence got me thinking about when it comes to huge challenges we've faced as a nation, we have a rich and storied history of aspirational spirit and belief in what we, together, can accomplish.

Are we losing this quintessentially American drive for excellence? Have we stopped believing in ourselves? Sometimes it feels that way when one tries to parse the political rhetoric barreling at us day in and day out.

"No we can't" scenarios come fast and furious from so many in power, no matter what challenge is at hand. As people openly carry assault weapons down the toy aisles at Target, we watch a stunning lack of courage to stand up to the NRA and to change America's gun laws, in even the most logical ways.

As student loans are crippling several generations somehow nobody can come to agreement on how to significantly lessen the burden on families and those starting out in life. Immigration? Education? And then there's climate change, which, if we don't figure it out, none of the others will matter.

You would think by listening to some on Capitol Hill that doing anything about climate change, will end life, as we know it. In fact, it's precisely the opposite. They want us to believe that they know best, but I don't buy it. All of this has become a big fat political football where self-preservation is the priority over the national good.

When President Obama recently announced his Climate Action Plan, the opposition rallied behind continuing to burn, as much coal as we can get our hands on, saying anything short of that will surely cripple the economy. It's kind of like when the seat belt laws were being discussed back in the '70s and '80s and the naysayers said it would ruin the auto industry. America figured it out. Nothing was ruined. Lives were saved.

A predominance of scientific evidence links climate change directly to fossil fuel pollution. Impacts such as extreme weather abound -- oceans rise, food sources are at risk and all around the world it contributes to instability. And then there's that economic hit of more than $100 billion and counting. Additionally, public health implications associated with climate change carry an enormous human and financial consequence. I ask myself, what specifically isn't clear?

Could it be, as they chest-thump their patriotic credentials, that some of those leaders in Washington have given up on American's ability to rise to the occasion? I've come to believe that they're simply out of touch with the ingenuity of average Americans and innovative leaders all across the country -- who thankfully decided years ago not to wait for DC.

Citizens have advocated for years now -- and states, cities and businesses have set energy efficiency targets, increased renewable energy and made agreements to cut carbon pollution. They've figured out how to address and benefit from the biggest challenge of our times, how to cut public health impacts, create good jobs and feed their local economies in a whole new way.

So as we move toward the July 4th holiday, if you really look beyond DC, you'll see that all across this great country, people have risen to the challenge at hand, showing us that America has definitely still got it.

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