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Moulton: Moderates Need to Stop Appeasing Polluters

From the Sierras to the Smokies, from the tundra of Alaska to the mangroves of the Everglades, America is threatened by polluters who think their bottom line is more important than the next generation’s clean air, water and healthy wild places. They are robbing us of the jobs of the future, our natural heritage, our national security.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Senate still has every opportunity to stop the polluters and curb the devastating levels of carbon pollution that they are dumping into the skies every day. But a minority of Senators are using Senate rules to thwart passage of an effective limit on carbon pollution. Members who have in the past stood strong for the environment are now accepting the pleas of polluters, not the public, and placing a higher value on protecting energy investments already made instead of the sustainable energy investments of the future.

In the old days, people threw their waste and trash in the river or the ravine. Now we all pay fees to have our waste disposed of safely — “all,” that is, except the carbon polluters, who continue to dump their waste into the skies, endangering community health and safety.

Now the time of reckoning has arrived. Is the Senate going to let the same old system of polluting-for-free remain America’s response to global warming? Or will it finally make polluters pay for their pollution, and protect the public in the process?

The writing is on the wall. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have clearly outlined the impacts of unchecked global warming on our most sensitive ecosystems. The U.S. Global Change Research Program and the National Academy of Sciences have spelled out for every Senator what is looming: direct threats to critical water supplies, drinking water, flood protection, food, jobs, medicine, timber, recreational opportunities — benefits we take for granted but that climate change will disrupt and degrade as the next two generations wonder why this generation was so passive in the face of clear and present danger.

A century ago President Theodore Roosevelt acted on America’s “best idea” to protect American values through its natural wonders, creating our parks and wildlife refuges and cracking down on trusts that put short-term profits ahead of the public interest. Now we need a renewal of that spirit to protect not just our wild places but also every human community.

This year, on this issue, the Senate is “the decider.” The next generation deserves a decision that looks beyond the next election and puts an end to this dangerous case of massive polluter appeasement. It is never too late to do what is right.

David Moulton is director of climate change policy at the Wilderness Society.

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