We have but this one earth to call home. It comes to us with a rich history. However, our actions today should be taken with the future in mind. I believe strongly in the Native American concept that the current generation has a moral and cultural obligation to consider the impact on the next seven generations. This foresight is essential to provide a sustainable world for our children and those who come after them.
Wisconsinites all over our great state cherish our clean air and water and the beautiful natural spaces we are graced with in our state. We understand that we are not truly free if the air we breathe and water we drink are polluted. Historically we have valued nature and all the things it provides us. However, due to climate change, this is all at risk. Our future is uncertain.
Our earth’s changing climate is the most immediate threat to our world today. Each day that goes by without immediate action allows more damage and destruction to our world. We must act now, while the worst of climate change is not yet irreversible. No cost is too high and no work is too burdensome to combat this trend. Our planet is in crisis. This is beyond dispute. We know that global temperatures are rising at an alarming rate, glaciers are melting, and changing weather patterns threaten people across the globe daily by creating unprecedented natural disasters.
President Obama recently took the biggest step in American history to combat climate change by finalizing his Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants. The EPA expects U.S. power plant emissions will be 32 percent lower in 2030 than they were in 2005. A significant cut, though still just a tiny piece of what's needed to halt global warming.
So what was Gov. Walker’s reaction to this plan? He plans to join a lawsuit against the federal government to stop its implementation. This dangerously short-sighted approach hurts our state.
Here in Wisconsin we love our land, we love our state parks, and we love our trout streams, rivers, and lakes. As a mother with four sons and a husband who cherish the outdoors both as sportsmen and conservationists, I know what’s at stake. I’ve beamed with pride as my 5-year-old has received junior ranger badges at national parks across the country. I’ve learned lessons from my 15-year old who feels most at home in nature.
Ignoring the Clean Power Plan, and worse, fighting it, is irresponsible and immoral.
While the noise from partisan ideology too often drowns out serious policy debates, facts don’t lie. Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they've been in 800,000 years, 2014 was the hottest year on record, and our world continues to grow hotter. No longer can we accept the willful ignorance of extreme right-wing pundits who grasp at one cold day, or one snowfall as an excuse for their self-delusion on climate change.
Rather than fighting tough rules to save our planet, we should embrace them. This is a moment in history when we must be leaders in a green energy revolution. We can pull our earth back from pending destruction. Wisconsin can drive innovation by coming up with new and unique ways to shift our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainability — all while creating jobs, kick-starting our economy, and providing opportunity for our future generations.
Right here in Madison there are cutting-edge energy innovations happening. I have had the honor to tour Virent Inc., which has made huge discoveries in transitioning from fossil fuel-based materials into plant-based materials, such as the first 100 percent plant-based plastic bottle. We have the Wisconsin Energy Institute, which is a world-class leader in clean energy research. It was the first facility in the nation to have a solar energy lab and continues to push the envelope toward American energy independence with a focus on everything from biofuels to batteries. These places, in our community, can and should serve as the model moving toward the future of energy policy in the United States.
We must each pledge to leave our planet a better place than we found it. Our country has overcome great challenges in the past. This may be our greatest test because it concerns our very survival. In Wisconsin we value a sustainable future, no matter our political affiliation. This is our one chance to turn the tide back toward respecting and caring for our earth. It is time to act swiftly and decisively for the future of our children and the future of our world.
Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.
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