March 27, 2019
We are at a crossroads when it comes to addressing the impacts of our changing climate. Ignoring the overwhelming evidence would be a form of malpractice on the part of public servants, the business community, and individual citizens alike. Left unaddressed, our children and grandchildren will inherit a less healthy planet, with far-reaching consequences for their economy, health, and way of life.
We have to act decisively and work together to protect our families and our future. There are many different ideas out there about how to tackle this, but one thing I’m certain of is that any successful path forward on an issue of this magnitude will require a sense of urgency, bipartisanship, and good-faith conversations and proposals.
This week, the Senate voted on one idea: the Green New Deal. Unfortunately, it was too broad and went too far. It tried to address such a diverse set of problems facing our country — climate change, lack of access to health care, and stagnant wages, for example — that it was not practical and collapsed under its own weight. I voted against it for this reason.
Furthermore, I was disheartened to see that political pundits and some of my colleagues focused all of their attention on the most unrealistic and aspirational aspects of the deal, instead of discussing ideas we can agree on and working together to find a real solution to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Majority Leader McConnell, who has until now refused to put any proposal on climate change on the floor of the Senate, dedicated valuable Senate time to this plan knowing full well that it would be soundly defeated and he used this issue to divide us. In doing so, the Senate lost an opportunity to discuss the tangible ways that we can move forward. Unfortunately, this is the type of political gamesmanship that is all too common in Washington today.
A good first step in addressing climate change would be to re-join the Paris Agreement, a global effort to respond to the threat of climate change that has support from both sides of the aisle and the business community. Rather than ignoring this issue or retreating, the United States should also be using our considerable bully pulpit to lead the world on combatting climate change, and specifically working to address increased pollution generated by countries like China and India.
Alabama can take steps to be a part of the solution, too. A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that facilities in our state released more than 77 million pounds of toxic material into our environment in 2017 — making Alabama the tenth-biggest polluter per square mile out of all 56 states and territories. We can and must do better.
Creating solutions for the future is good business, too. Several major Alabama businesses are already working to meet this challenge, leading the nation in many areas of the green economy. Wilsonville, Alabama, is home to the National Carbon Capture Center where ground-breaking work is being done to improve the carbon footprint of coal-powered plants. We have nuclear power plants that produce energy that is zero emission, and our state also generates a significant amount of clean hydroelectric power.
Developing more fuel-efficient vehicles will help reduce the demand for oil and gas. Mercedes is building an electric battery plant in Vance, Alabama and will be producing electric SUVs to sell around the world. New Flyer is also building electric buses in Anniston. As much as addressing climate change is about our environment, it is just as much about maintaining and creating good jobs at home.
Unfortunately, our leaders and the media spend too much time bickering about unrealistic ideas and not enough time talking about real steps we can take to protect our environment and grow our economy. While the Green New Deal is not a feasible way to move forward, I hope we can come together at every level of government and industry and find a path forward to secure our future.