Oped by Rep. Debbie Sarinana, Albuquerque

 First published in the Albuquerque Journal

July 31, 2022

Debbie Sarinana surrounded by children she taught in NM.

I signed up to serve and protect my country in the Air Force, and now my state, as a public servant.

My children serve in the military as well. I’m also a proud grandmother. We owe it to them, and all the American people, to take logical, sensible steps that will improve their lives by protecting them against climate change.

According to scientists the Southwest megadrought has become so severe it’s now the driest two decades in the region in at least 1,200 years, and climate change is largely responsible. One small town, Chama, went weeks without running water. They just got it back.

In our state, there have been more than 30 fires since March burning nearly 900,000 acres. These fires are so severe they have drawn the notice of our nation’s top leaders. Following one fire that burned more than 500 square miles and disrupted the lives of thousands of residents, President Joe Biden even visited our state. Unfortunately, these disasters are becoming the rule rather than the exception: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages triple the number of disasters this year as it did a decade ago.

People will rebuild, but we must move away from the major cause of climate change: the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a national security threat that have contributed to the climate crisis, and to secure our nation’s security and energy independence, we need to break our dependency on fossil fuels.

Our leaders in Washington must rein in the oil and gas industries that are making billions in profit while everyday citizens’ pocketbooks are breaking. The largest oil and gas producers reported bumper profits while increasing the price of gas for consumers. These industries not only get a free pass to emit heat-trapping gases that exacerbate extreme weather events like wildfires and heat waves, but they also continue to receive taxpayer funds. It’s past time we accelerate the transition to clean energy, which is not just necessary for our environment but critical to our economic and national security.

Already, Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to jump-start America’s clean energy economy by bolstering the production of solar panels, for example. I’m proud to say, as the co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect America Leadership Council, I fought for this DPA action with more than 565 elected officials from across the country. However, more action is needed to set the U.S. on a path to a 50% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 — the same goal scientists say is necessary to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Last November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed $555 billion in climate and clean energy investments. Now, we need the Senate to do the moral thing and listen to the majority of Americans who are calling on their leaders to take action against climate change and pass these investments. The Senate must act with conviction to protect our health and environment and secure our energy independence. With these investments, we can show the world America is a climate leader. Our lives and those of our children and grandchildren, our economy, and our national security depend on us meeting the full scale of the climate crisis. We have no time to waste.