I do not believe that the climate crisis should be a partisan political issue. I just returned from the United Kingdom, where last week the two major parties put forward their climate change platforms. The Tory and Labour parties are in vigorous competition with one another—competing to put forward the best solution to the climate crisis. I look forward to the day when we return to this way of thinking here in the U.S.
The climate crisis is, by its nature, a global problem -- and ultimately the solution must be global as well. The best way -- and the only way -- to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership. As the world's largest economy and greatest superpower, we are uniquely situated to tackle a problem of this magnitude.
After all, we have taken on problems of this scope before. When England and then America and our allies rose to meet the threat of global fascism, together we won two wars simultaneously in Europe and the Pacific.
This is a moral moment of similar magnitude. This is not ultimately about any scientific discussion or political dialogue. It is about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge.
The solutions to this problem are accessible, but politically -- at least in the near term -- seem quite difficult. In practice, however, they will turn out to be much easier than they appear to us now.
For example, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer first negotiated in the 1980s was opposed by industry for fear it would hurt the economy because its provisions were too stringent. However, governments and industry rose to meet the challenge and the treaty was strengthened twice in quick succession to quickly ramp down the chemicals that were causing the hole in the ozone layer.
There are some who will say that acting to solve this crisis will be costly. I don't agree. If we solve it in the right way, we will save money and boost productivity. Moreover, the consequences of inaction would be devastating to both the environment and the economy. Recent reports make that clear.
When I think about the climate crisis today I can imagine a time in the future when our children and grandchildren ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: What were you thinking, didn't you care about our future? Or they will ask: How did you find the moral courage to cross party lines and solve this crisis? We must hear their questions now. We must answer them with our actions, not merely with our promises. We must choose a future for which our children and grandchildren will thank us.