By Zachary Fisch
I write to express my profound disappointment that Rep. Nita Lowey refused to support the select committee on a Green New Deal. It is yet another example of her inaction and complacency in the face of crisis.
As an eighth-grader at The Masters School, my teachers took our class to see “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary on climate change. As I watched the apocalyptic images of the ocean encroaching on Miami and Lower Manhattan, I was appalled. Someone had to do something to save the planet, I thought, and our government had to help catalyze that collective action.
But 12 years after my awakening at the Jacob Burns Film Center, Congress, including Rep. Lowey, has done nothing but collectively shrug as people die in increasingly harsh and frequent natural disasters.
Like most of her 30-year tenure in Congress, Rep. Lowey resisted bold action. She has chosen to play it safe. And we will all pay the price for the rest of our lives.
Climate change is an existential threat to our civilization right now. Disasters like Superstorm Sandy, which affected thousands of families in Westchester, including my own, will become common. The Lower Hudson Valley is 50 percent more likely to have a 100-year flood in the 2020s and up to 190 percent more likely to have one in the 2050s. Large parts of our infrastructure, including Amtrak and Metro-North, will be underwater within our lifetimes.
We don’t have much time to stave off catastrophe. A recent U.N. report found that we need to reduce emissions by 45 percent in the next 12 years to keep the rise in global temperatures to a manageable level.
A Green New Deal would do just that. It would put people to work to de-carbonize our economy and protect our homes and infrastructure, while providing for a fair transition for communities and workers. Not only would it literally save the planet, it would make our communities more livable and help us prepare to rescue the economy during the next recession. All the while, it would help lessen our county’s staggering income inequality, among the worst in the nation.
We need policies that match the scale of this impending crisis. A select committee on a Green New Deal would not have enacted those policies; it simply would have studied the problem and recommended legislation for Congress to pass in 2020. It was a reasonable approach backed by people across the political spectrum: 81 percent of voters approved of the committee, including 64 percent of Republicans. But Rep. Lowey let it die.
Rather than backing a select committee on a Green New Deal like over 40 other members of Congress did, Rep. Lowey backed a watered-down climate change committee whose chair, Kathy Castor, signaled a willingness to kowtow to fossil fuel companies and other polluters that have an interest in kneecapping our ability to avert climate catastrophe. That committee is unlikely to produce legislation that will stop our seas from rising and our forests from burning.
It gets worse.
Just today, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a House resolution in favor of a Green New Deal. Like the select committee, that resolution does not have the force of law; it merely defines the problem of climate change and sets broad principles for goals for our response to that problem. Over 60 members of Congress co-sponsored the resolution. Four presidential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, are in favor.
Climate change is not happening in 10 years. It’s happening now. It’s time for Rep. Lowey to realize that and act accordingly. We do not have time to wait.
Zachary Fisch is a Tarrytown resident and a third-year student at Harvard Law School.
Editor’s Note: On Friday, Feb. 8, Rep. Lowey signed on as a co-sponsor. Rep. Nita Lowey’s office maintained that the congresswoman was never in opposition to the resolution. This column was posted on Feb. 7.