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Editorial: A hotter world creates the climate for change

On Wednesday, scientists from NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released duel studies showing 2015 as the warmest year on earth since 1880, the first year records were kept. NOAA had previously reported that 2015 was the second-warmest year for the continental United States, after 2012.
“The whole system is warming up relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The consequences of this global warming are showing up around the world: a wave of unusual winter floods has plagued the Mississippi River watershed; a heat wave in India (the second worst in that country’s history) killed an estimated 2,500 people; and a drought in southern Africa threatens the food supply of millions of people.
With 97 percent of the world’s scientists in agreement that the man-made carbon dioxide is accelerating global warming, the practical solution is obvious: we must reduce mankind’s carbon footprint.
The obstacle? Political will. In this country, it’s the Republican Party’s denial of global warming and its refusal to entertain measures (like a tax on carbon pollution) that would effectively reduce carbon consumption. It is also the GOP’s loyalty to the oil industry in exchange for huge amounts of campaign contributions supporting Republican candidates. That’s the sad truth.
The hope? Mobilizing voters to overwhelm Republican opposition.
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Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, has such a plan.
“The debate is over,” Sanders said after Wednesday’s news. “Fourteen of the last 16 years have been the hottest ever recorded. Climate change is real and is caused by human activity. This planet and its people are in trouble. Unless we get our act together, we will see in years to come more droughts, more floods and more extreme weather disturbances. It is absolutely vital that we act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels. That’s why I have proposed a comprehensive plan to put people before polluters and reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 by putting a tax on carbon and making aggressive investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
A few of the specifics of Sanders’ plan are worth noting. He would:
• Cut U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and by over 80 percent by 2050. Not only would he put a tax on carbon pollution, he would repeal fossil fuel subsidies and make massive investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
• Work to eliminate the $135 billion dollars in tax subsidies the industry is in line to get over the next decade.
• Sponsor the Keep It in the Ground Act to ban future fossil fuel leases on public lands. The legislation would keep over 90 percent of the potential carbon emissions from fossil fuels on federal lands and waters underground forever.
• Create clean, domestic energy alternatives to power cars and trucks, noting that the transportation sector accounts for about 26 percent of carbon pollution emissions.
• Ban Arctic oil drilling and offshore drilling.                               
• Stop exports of liquefied natural gas and crude oil. The Department of Energy has found that exporting even half of the natural gas already approved for export could raise U.S. prices by up to 54 percent. Oil and natural gas exports must be in the interest of consumers, the economy, our manufacturing sector and national security – not merely the interest of fossil fuel companies’ bottom line, he says.
• Stand with Vermont and other states to ban fracking for natural gas.
• Close the loopholes that allow the chemical, oil and gas industries to pollute our air and water via acid rain.                 
• Increase fuel economy standards to 65 miles per gallon by 2025.
• Invest in interstate and intercity high-speed rail systems and in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, comparing the effort to building the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 1960s.
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As president Sanders also has pledged to convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. The United Nations Paris climate talks in December were an important milestone toward solving climate change, Sanders says, “but even optimistic outcomes of these talks will not put the world on the path needed to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change. We must think beyond Paris.”
On the issue, he is tougher than his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and eons ahead of any of the Republican candidates. To get any of these measures through a Republican Congress, of course, will be a battle, but you can be assured Sanders would not be shy of using the bully-pulpit and social media to drum up public support for what most Americans (polls suggest) know is the right thing to do.
Having the political will to tackle climate change head on is the real issue. To that end, Sanders also leads all other candidates.
Says 350.org founder, Ripton resident and leading climate change activist Bill McKibben: “Bernie’s vision of a transformed America is powerful because it recognizes both the ecological need and the human priority. There’s good useful work that we need millions of Americans to do—and he’ll make sure it’s done by the people left out of our economic booms of the past. Even more important than the plan is the credibility of the planner. Bernie has shown with years of committed action that he will not just talk about this stuff on the campaign trail, he will do it in the Oval Office.”
It’s endorsements like that, and rational plans on tough issues (like his approach on global warming) that has Sanders even in the polls in Iowa, surging ahead in New Hampshire and spearheading a campaign that is building enthusiasm across the nation.
Angelo S. Lynn

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