An Open Letter To Senators Cruz And Cornyn Of Texas

09/06/2017 03:47 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2017

Gentlemen,

It’s one of the oldest stories we know. Mankind receives warning of an unprecedented disaster that’s about to unfold. There’s a simple choice: prepare and survive, or ignore and perish. 

Republican politicians often evoke the Bible when it suits their purposes. But they disregard some of its most important teachings when formulating policy. This includes the story of Noah’s Ark. Noah’s story holds powerful lessons for us today. We live in a time when it has become absolutely clear that global warming is starting to have a devastating affect on our lives. From super storms and floods like the disaster unfolding in Houston, to droughts and fires of unprecedented magnitude, the direct effects of climate change are now impossible to ignore. Rising sea levels will put whole swaths of coastal cities like Miami under water before the end of the century.

Yet despite such ample evidence and warnings, the Republican Party still chooses to ignore the reality. And sometimes I wonder whether any amount of evidence could convince you to act. After all, we have a surplus of evidence. What is lacking is the political will of Republican elected officials, like you, to do anything about it.

The catastrophe unfolding in Houston is yet another stark warning. People are losing their homes and their jobs. Some have lost their lives. Scientists expect monster storms like Hurricane Harvey to increase in number — and intensify in magnitude —as warmer temperatures disrupt weather systems around the world. As I write, Hurricane Irma ― a terrifying superstorm with the highest wind speeds ever recorded in the Atlantic ― is cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean. Cities like Houston and New Orleans, on the Gulf of Mexico, face the threat of severe and life-threatening impacts. 

We have a moral responsibility to address this urgent threat. But Republicans don’t want to talk about the problem — or even admit it exists. Instead, the Republican strategy has consisted of aggressive denial of the facts coupled with staunch obstruction of any serious action to address the problem.

Tragically, no industry has done more to block crucial action to address climate change than the oil industry. In fact, as Hurricane Harvey barreled towards Houston, two Harvard researchers were simultaneously releasing a report that detailed how Exxon Mobil spent decades lying to the American people about climate change.

In Exxon’s internal conversations, they understood the science and admitted the threat. When speaking to the public, Exxon lied.

“Exxon Mobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it,” wrote the report’s authors.

Now Exxon, along with other major oil corporations like Valero, Shell, Citgo and Phillips 66, has been forced to shut down its Houston refinery because of flooding from the storm. Port Arthur, the planned terminus of the Keystone XL pipeline, is completely under water. The executives of these oil companies are bearing witness to the boomerang effect of burning fossil fuels. They are glimpsing a future that millions of Americans will face as the climate crisis intensifies.

Senators, I hope that you will take some time to reflect. Few politicians have done more to prevent action on climate change than the two of you, which I suspect may have something to do with the $5.6 million you’ve taken from the oil and gas industry over the years. But with so many citizens of your state suffering the direct consequences of climate change, I hope you can summon the moral courage to change course.

We face an existential threat, and in the face of this, your specious economic arguments and lame, fossil fuel-endorsed excuses fall flat. We know that fighting climate change will reduce costs and create millions of jobs. We have the knowledge and technology needed to prevent future catastrophes. By doing so, we will create broad prosperity, cleaner air and water, cheaper energy for all, and, most importantly, we will save lives. Just as the evidence of crisis has made itself apparent in Texas, so has the fact that clean energy provides a better path for all made itself evident in the Lone Star State. Texas leads the nation in wind power generation, and it’s on the way to becoming a solar energy powerhouse.

Senators, it’s time for you to join the team that is trying to do the right thing – not just in the short run, but with an eye to our shared future. The people of Texas need you to get on board with the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century: clean energy technology that will save lives, create jobs, and protect the amazing creation we all call home.

On behalf of NextGen America, please know that the people of Houston are in our thoughts and prayers. We are also fully engaged in fundraising efforts to assist our fellow citizens affected by this catastrophe. Words do not suffice in a tragedy like this. This is a time for action – action to care for our fellow citizens in the face of disaster, and action to prevent a systemic worsening of the climate crisis by heeding the warning and doing what is right. 

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