The academic debate on climate change is settled: It is here, it is human-caused, and it is already having a devastating impact on our communities. But some political leaders deny scientific facts and evidence. They believe that the truth is not good for their careers. And when faced with irrefutable evidence, too many politicians choose to fall back on the classic defense, "I have no awareness of that, your honor."
President Reagan once said, "When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat." Well, I think it's about time we heed President Reagan's advice and make candidates standing on the wrong side of history feel the heat this November.
We can't afford to lose. Demanding that our leaders take action on climate change is about a lot more than polar bears and ice caps; it's about safeguarding our health, preserving our prosperity and protecting the future of our children.
Scientists have warned us that "the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." And we're seeing the effects of climate change all around us.
In the West, raging wildfires tear through our communities and cause billions of dollars in economic losses.
In America's heartland, extreme heat and drought threaten our agricultural industry and our food security.
In Florida, millions of people and trillions of dollars in assets are at risk due to rising sea levels.
In Pennsylvania, low-income communities are disproportionately affected by asthma and often live in the shadow of the state's biggest polluters.
In Michigan, the majority of Hispanic and African-American children attend school in the most polluted areas. What's more, air pollution is causing children to perform worse in school.
Here's the ugly truth: Those with the most to gain financially are fighting everyday to maintain the status quo. Since 2008, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions at the federal level alone. This money works to preserve the status quo politically and maintain the record oil profits that ensue. It buys the silence of politicians who continue to put their careers ahead of our kids' future.
But silence is no longer an option. It's time to act politically to avert climate disaster and build the clean energy future our kids deserve. This is the challenge of our generation, and we will be judged tomorrow by our willingness to act today.
While our climate-denying opponents sit in the pockets of Big Oil, we're focused on taking back our future.
That's why my organization, NextGen Climate, will be working in states across the country where climate is on the ballot this November.
Fortunately, there are candidates who are willing to lead on the issue of climate change -- leaders who understand this is not just an environmental issue, but a pocketbook issue for voters. These leaders know that if we want to grow our economy, we must chart a different course, one that empowers American businesses and innovators to build on the clean energy momentum already happening across the country.
Bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics means making politicians feel the heat -- in their campaign coffers and at the polls -- and it's time we voters make a change.
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