The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Last month, environmental, community and social justice advocates delivered a thank you to Senator Kyrsten Sinema and an “Act on Climate” message to Sen. Martha McSally. Sinema signed on as a co-sponsor of S.1743 — International Climate Accountability Act, a bill to maintain the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and to prohibit any federal funds from being used to take any action to advance the withdrawal of the U.S. from this agreement to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
The introduction of this bill is an important step in the Senate as the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a similar bill. Where is McSally? And why have we not heard from her on one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation.
Perhaps the senator has not read the Fourth National Climate Assessment. This assessment is not just about what is projected to happen in the future, it is about what is happening now — the significant increase in the average annual temperature from 1901-2016 was about 1.6 degrees for the Southwest, the number of acres burned by wild fire has increased, more extreme heat, intensified drought, and reduced flows in our rivers and streams, including the Colorado River.
All of these impacts have real costs associated with them, including in human health, lost lives and economic opportunities. Hotter, drier and more extreme weather events are also in the forecast for the Southwest.
So why isn’t McSally and every one of our elected officials making this climate crisis a top priority? Why aren’t they supporting international agreements to reduce emissions to stabilize the climate? Why aren’t they seriously considering the Green New Deal to address both the climate crisis and societal inequities that exacerbate its impacts?
Some argue that the price tag of doing so is too high. What about the price tag on doing nothing? Globally, we are talking about $69 trillion in damage from climate change by 2100 according to Moody’s Analytics, and the National Climate Assessment indicates that the U.S. economy will shrink by as much as 10% by the end of the century due to climate change impacts.
And if all of that is not enough, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with a report last year telling us we need to take actions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and we need to do it in the next decade. This is not impetus for despair, but it should absolutely spur action.
Elected officials at every level should develop, advocate for and implement climate action plans. For McSally, signing on to the International Climate Accountability Act would be a good first step. She should join Sinema, the majority in the U.S. House, and more than 3,700 American organizations and leaders to support the Paris Agreement, telling President Trump that the U.S. should meet its climate commitments.
For the rest of our Arizona congressional delegation, how about moving on the Green New Deal? We do not have time to waste on politicians who are waiting to make sure it will help them politically. The time to act was yesterday, but action now can help us avoid the worst impacts of climate change and also better address the ones that are already here.