For most Orange County residents who want their elected representatives to address the global climate crisis with urgency, the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections gives cause for hope.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, four long time Orange County Members of Congress who doggedly ignored their constituents’ concerns about global warming have been replaced by four fresh faces, all Democrats: Katie Porter (CD-45), which includes Irvine; Gil Cisneros (CD-39); Harley Rouda (CD-48); and Mike Levin CD-49).
With these victories, Orange County’s representation in the House is now all “blue” for the first time since the 1930s. But with the administration in Washington intent on rolling back environmental regulations and still denying the very existence of human-caused climate change, this is no time for a victory lap. It took fierce political engagement to achieve these midterm results. That kind of engagement — by all of us, regardless of political party — must continue, especially given the global emergency that the climate crisis poses.
The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that if we are to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis — horrific storms, droughts, floods, wildfires, infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, and population displacement — we must drastically reduce carbon emissions globally within the next twelve years.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment, recently released by thirteen agencies of the U.S. government (and promptly dismissed by Trump), warns of imminent damage to communities, infrastructure, oceans, coastlines, agriculture, water supply, human health, and the entire U.S. economy.
Our own representatives
Here in Irvine, newly elected U.S. Rep. Katie Porter can truly represent us only if we pointedly tell her what our interests are. We must insist that she make the climate crisis a top priority and demonstrate this through her voting record and the legislation she supports. The same is true, at the state level, for Cottie Petrie-Norris, the Democrat who now represents Irvine and neighboring communities in the 74th State Assembly District. We can expect Porter and Petrie-Norris to become leaders in meeting the climate crisis only if we, in turn, show them that there is strong grassroots support within their districts for their actions.
Climate bill in Congress
It’s very encouraging that a climate bill was recently introduced in the 2018 lame duck session of Congress, with both Republican and Democratic sponsorship. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Fee Dividend Act proposes to wean our economy off fossil fuels through a gradually escalating fee on carbon emissions, with all revenues returned to the people in the form of “dividends” — regular checks from the federal government.
By including a border tariff on imports from other countries that fail to establish their own price on carbon emissions, the legislation boldly aims to rein in carbon emissions globally.
A similar bill has since been introduced in the Senate. The Senate version did not contain specific controversial items that were included in the House bill to gain Republican support, for example: a moratorium on CO2 regulations and an exemption for carbon emissions from agriculture. The language in bills can often make them challenging to decipher. This is why it’s imperative that the public pay close attention to the details when updated versions of legislation are making their way through the new Congress.
Green New Deal
Another exciting development is the proposal by incoming House freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – NY) to create a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. This committee’s intent would be to provide an urgent and comprehensive policy framework for federal action addressing climate change that goes beyond a single piece of legislation. Though the fate of a Green New Deal remains uncertain, what’s important is that it’s another sign that our representatives in Congress are starting to take seriously the public’s demand for real-world solutions to the climate crisis.
The lessons of past elections show us that nothing changes unless we, the people, make the effort to continually engage with our elected officials. If we want government action commensurate with the urgency of the climate crisis, we must demand it of all
This means taking the time to contact our representatives at town hall meetings, and through personal phone calls and visits to their offices.
MAKE PERSONAL CONTACT!
Contact your Congressional and State representatives by email (not very effective); by phone (effective); or make a personal visit (most effective).
Contact by USPS mail is also very effective; however, because of security concerns, it takes a while for USPS mail to pass security clearance.
U.S. House of Representatives
45th Congressional District
1117 Longworth HOB, Wash., DC 20515
To email, go to: porter.house.gov/contact
No local office, yet.
State Assembly, 74th District
1503 South Coast Drive #205
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Sarah Mosko is a licensed psychologist and sleep disorders specialist, with a background in neurobiology and basic science research that enables her to explain the science behind current environmental problems and solutions. She received her Ph.D. at Princeton University, and held an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC San Diego.
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