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Our Environment, Climate Change, and the Fight to Save our Planet

DEFAZIO AN ORIGINAL COSPONSOR OF THE GREEN NEW DEAL

I have lived in Oregon most of my life. From the first summer that I moved here, I’ve spent time hiking and backpacking in some of the most beautiful areas of our state. Wilderness areas like the Eagle Cap, Diamond Peak, Kalmiopsis, and the newly-designated Devil's Staircase Wilderness give me peace, and help me balance the political stress of Washington D.C.

Oregon’s great outdoors recharge my spirit and remind us that we must protect our natural heritage for future generations. After years of work, we passed and signed into law protections for 30,000 acres of old growth coastal forest, 250 miles of wild and scenic rivers, and 100,000 acres of critical steelhead and salmon habitat.

But even these protected places are still threatened by the dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, raging wildfires, and thoughtless politicians who not only refuse to act on climate change but are actively rolling back critical environmental protections that keep our waters clean and our air breathable. I’m taking the fight to them. I’m honored to be an original cosponsor of the Green New Deal and the recently-introduced Climate Emergency Resolution, and I pushed for the creation of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

For years I’ve joined with conscientious leaders sounding the alarm on climate change. We support the overwhelming evidence from our own government as well as the international scientific community. I first introduced a bill to cap, regulate, and reduce carbon emissions a decade ago.

The science is crystal clear: our climate is changing because of human activity. We now face the biggest existential threat to our planet that we have ever known.

We’re even seeing the impacts of climate change in the deepest parts of our oceans that threaten the entire food chain.

Our oceans absorb twenty-five percent of the carbon dioxide that humans produce every year. As emissions increase, the chemistry of our oceans dramatically changes and leads to ocean acidification. Since the Industrial Revolution, our oceans have become 30 percent more acidic, triggering coral bleaching and die off, an alarming decline of biodiversity, the decimation of microorganisms critical to marine ecosystems, and the depletion of oxygen that leads to ever-expanding dead zones uninhabitable for marine life.

From coral and kelp, to oysters, salmon, and whales, all marine life in our oceans face this threat. We must take action NOW before it’s too late.

We have a hell of a lot of work to do, and I’m working to enact effective policies that produce real results.

I’ve long called on my congressional colleagues to take decisive, swift, and thoughtful action to protect our environment. It is enormously frustrating to try to reason with anti-science climate change deniers in Congress and the White House. But their days are numbered.

The American people know the climate crisis is real and are demanding Congress, statehouses, and local governments take immediate action to drastically reduce carbon emissions. The energy behind this movement comes from young people across the world working to preserve their future and ours. From them I draw inspiration and energy to continue this fight.

The Green New Deal and 21st Century Green Transportation

✔️As an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’m taking direct action to enact the goals of the Green New Deal through legislation and policy.

The transportation sector is responsible for nearly 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. By transforming our transportation system, we can effect real and long-term change. We will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by building a transportation system with 21st century technology. We will electrify our transportation systems, develop more carbon neutral fuels, and invest in bold new renewable sources of energy like renewable hydrogen. We can reshape our entire economy to a sustainable one as long as we have the vision and the determination to carry it out.

I have long pushed for our nation’s transportation infrastructure to be safer, stronger, more resilient, and environmentally sustainable. Now as the Chairman, I will lead the way in implementing the policies that will revitalize our economy and reduce carbon emissions.

We will take bold action and work with scientific experts to ensure that our policies make a positive impact and don’t create more problems such as subsidies for certain biofuels that lead to the destruction of tropical rainforests.

💣I’m still haunted by a horrible policy mistake that Congress made in 2000’s by subsidizing ethanol in an attempt to expand green energy sources. The unforeseen result of that action was a mass destruction of rainforests which were slashed and burned to plant palm trees because farmers wanted to sell palm oil to biodiesel producers.

We have the science to make meaningful change. You can guarantee that the reforms and policy that I lead will be backed up by scientific consensus and vetted by experts with diverse specialties. We’re nearly out of time and we can’t afford to make any mistakes.

To mark Earth Day, I had the honor of joining world-renowned environmental scientist and Oregon State University Professor Dr. Bill Ripple for a conference on climate change. Together, we detailed current climate science, the great cost of inaction, and the fight to enact meaningful policy in Congress.

The Green New Deal outlines the steps that we must take as a country and federal government to fight climate change and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, under my leadership, is already taking action:

✔️At the start of 2019, I directed all six of my subcommittees to immediately investigate ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption in our nation’s transportation and infrastructure.
✔️I’m working with green-energy experts and brilliant minds who are developing groundbreaking technologies and more energy efficient modes of transportation. We need to harness new technology and innovation that will stop the progression of climate change and reduce carbon in our atmosphere.
✔️From carbon neutral buildings, to completely electric semi-trucks, to concrete that can absorb carbon, to high speed, energy-efficient mass transit systems like hyperloop, there are numerous exciting projects and technologies that I’ve learned about and am working into legislation.

Our Young Climate (World) Changers

Although I have worked my entire career to ensure we have a clean and healthy environment, I am newly inspired by the young people of Our Children’s Trust to tackle the most pressing issue humanity has ever faced. I’m proud to represent some of these world changers that live in my congressional district; they’ve stepped up as patriots to hold the federal government accountable for its inaction on climate change.

I’ve been honored to work with them and show my strong support for their landmark case, Juliana v. The United States, by joining an amicus brief supporting their case. Our planet is at risk and we must use every tool at our disposal to save our planet for today’s youth and future generations. I hope the litigation is successful and helps force meaningful action by Congress and the White House.

Preserving the Magic of the Wild

My experience hiking to the Devil’s Staircase with friends from was one that I’ll never forget. This treasured ecological feature is one of Oregon’s gems, hidden away and protected in a remote area of my congressional district— one of the hardest places to reach in the entire state. There are no trails, GPS is spotty at best, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll find it after six hours of bushwhacking and log jumping. In fact, more explorers tell the tale of their fruitless search for Devil’s Staircase then those who can report on it’s beauty.

I was fortunate enough to have knowledgeable guides, sturdy hiking boots, and the wind at my back. When we finally reached the staircase, we rejoiced at the beauty of our natural planet and the honor of bearing witness to such a wild and remote space. In that moment, I pledged to protect it with Wilderness status. After working for a decade, in February 2019 my legislation to permanently protect over 30,000 acres of the Devil’s Staircase as wilderness became law.

But despite being hidden and remote, the magic of Devil’s Staircase won’t exist in the future if the river runs dry and the magnificent old growth stands wither.

If we don’t tackle climate change, we won’t just lose our planet— we’ll lose the very places that have helped shape our humanity. We are a part of something bigger than just ourselves. A future that does not have wild and scenic spaces for our children is one that I refuse to accept.

It is my sacred duty to ensure that the next generation has a healthy, sustainable planet to thrive and enjoy. It’s the responsibility of a lifetime and I know you’re fighting with me. There’s nothing more important.

Thanks, Peter

As Independent as Oregon.

Peter DeFazio's common-sense proposals aim to create good-paying jobs, expand access to affordable health care and develop options outside of the for-profit marketplace, restore economic and educational opportunities, hold government accountable and tip the scales of inequality back in favor of hard-working Oregonians.

Meet Peter