— OpEd by Bernie Sanders, Candidate for U.S. President and sitting Senator from VT
Climate change is an unprecedented planetary emergency. If we don’t act aggressively now to combat it, there will be major and painful consequences in store later: rising oceans that inundate coastal areas, bigger superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, worsening droughts, out-of-control wildfires, historic floods that come year after year, rising food prices, and millions of people displaced by climate disasters. It’s not a future any of us wants to imagine.
But despite how difficult the problem is, the basics of how we should respond to it are actually not that complicated: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and move to 100 percent renewable energy — and we need to act immediately.
That’s why I cannot understand why some Democratic presidential candidates have refused to take a stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone XL would transport millions of gallons of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — oil that scientists tell us we simply cannot burn if we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change. As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, building Keystone XL would mean “game over” for the climate.
A decision on Keystone XL could come at any moment, and that’s why it’s so important you make your voice heard through our campaign today.
It’s no big surprise that in recent years, most major Republican politicians have chosen to deny that climate change even exists. Republicans in Congress have collectively received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests who directly profit from stonewalling action on climate, at the expense of the climate and of humanity. Politicians who deny climate change is real, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, are as morally bankrupt as those who helped Big Tobacco conceal the truth about the health effects of smoking, evading responsibility for years.
But in some ways, it’s even more disappointing to see Democratic politicians, who understand that climate change is real and profess to care about action on climate, equivocate on an issue as clear-cut as Keystone XL.
A study released by the scientific journal Nature just a few months ago found that if we want to keep global warming below the internationally agreed-upon safe upper limit of two degrees Celsius, we need to reduce all production of the Canadian tar sands — the kind of oil that Keystone XL would transport — to “negligible” levels. In other words, there is simply no scenario where we can address climate change in a real way and also allow this pipeline to go forward.
Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is not the only thing we must do to address climate change. Ultimately, we need to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and move to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.
That’s why I also oppose oil drilling in the Arctic, support the fossil fuel divestment movement, and have sponsored legislation in Congress to bring solar energy to ten million rooftops in America. As a result of these positions, and my long record in support of the environment, I was recently honored to receive the endorsement of Friends of the Earth.
To win the important environmental victories we so urgently need, it will take a coordinated grassroots movement fighting to take our country and our climate back from the fossil fuel industry billionaires. It was a grassroots movement — of Nebraska ranchers, Native American communities, and climate change activists — that managed to hold off Keystone XL for years, despite the conventional wisdom that the pipeline was a done deal. I’m proud to have stood with those activists in their fight from the very beginning.