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Michael Bennet: Congress needs bipartisan strategy as Trump doubles down against climate science

National Climate Assessment "not warnings of a political fringe," Sen. Bennet says

Since 1901, Western Colorado has experienced some of the greatest temperature increases in America. By the end of the century, average temperatures across our state could increase another 8 degrees Fahrenheit, with catastrophic effects for our communities, health and economy. These are not warnings of a political fringe.

They are the findings of the National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive report on climate change in America, which the Trump administration buried by releasing on Black Friday.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat. (Handout)

Today the president doubled down, saying he does not believe the report’s conclusions on the economic costs of climate change. But the report is clear: Without action, the Southwest will see more extreme heat, less snowpack, lower soil moisture, and decades-long droughts. By the end of the century, our national economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars.

These findings are consistent with what Coloradans have told me. Farmers and ranchers in the San Luis Valley are contending with water shortages and lower crop yields. Mountain lodges and winter outfitters are struggling to maintain their successful businesses in the face of shorter ski seasons. Raging wildfires are upending families and communities across our state. According to the new report, these challenges will only grow worse if Washington fails to act.

In reaction to wildfires devastating the West last week, President Trump said, “We will do everything in our power to support and protect our fellow citizens in harm’s way.” In fact, his policies have put more Americans in harm’s way by increasing our vulnerability to climate change.

Since taking office, President Trump has acted on an aggressive deregulation agenda, rolling back cost-effective steps to combat climate change and support clean energy. In his most recent budget, he proposed slashing funds for wildfire prevention. Rather than politicizing science and cherry-picking the report’s findings, we need a serious, bipartisan strategy to address our changing climate. And we need the president’s leadership.

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The mounting threat of climate change should rise above the partisan bickering in Washington. In our state, continuous drought does not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans. Wildfires do not respect the boundaries of congressional districts. The report, issued by 13 federal agencies in the president’s own administration, makes the most powerful case possible for executive and legislative action. It is well past time we came together on practical and bold solutions.

As a state that is a third Democratic, a third Independent, and a third Republican, Colorado has led the way in establishing sensible and effective policy to reduce carbon pollution and accelerate the shift to clean energy. In the process, we have created thousands of well-paying jobs while making our communities healthier and safer. Our experience in Colorado reminds us that, despite our differences, we can still make progress.

Generations ago, our parents and grandparents heeded the warnings of scientists and set aside their partisan differences to shrink the ozone hole, fight acid rain, and pass landmark environmental protections. The warnings in the National Climate Assessment call on our generation to do the same.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, is Colorado’s senior senator. He sits on the Senate committees on Finance; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.


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