U.S. Rep. Castor promises solutions at climate committee’s first hearing; Young activists get involved

Chris J. Suggs, a college student and community organizer from North Carolina, with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. Credit: Dwight A. Weingarten/Medill News Service

WASHINGTON  — Several young climate activists on Thursday chastised all three branches of the federal government for not acting aggressively to address the growing threat of global warming.

At the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Aji Piper, an 18-year-old from Seattle who has sued the federal government for not reducing carbon dioxide emissions, said, “I place my faith in the court.”

He is one of the 21 plaintiffs in a lawsuit that claims young people’s constitutional rights are violated if the government does not take action to protect the environment.

“I am here to speak to you, as a young person, on the greatest issue of our time — climate change,” he told the committee.

Florida U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, the Democrat chairing the new committee, called reducing carbon emissions a top priority.

“It is now our obligation, our moral responsibility to take action,” said Castor. “From this point forward we will be focused on solutions.”

Rep. Sean Casten, (D-Ill.), said Congress has had “a bipartisan consensus to do nothing” for decades.

As a former owner of a clean energy company, Casten thought global warming was occurring because technology wasn’t advancing rapidly enough. But now, as a member of Congress, he believes “the laws of the U.S. are holding us back.”

“What you have done is leadership distilled,” Casten told the young activists, “and what we’ve done so far is shameful.”

Paraphrasing the late poet Robert Frost, Casten told his colleagues of both parties, “We have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.”

He also urged the young activists to continue to push Congress and the rest of the federal government on the issue.

Aji Piper called the hearing a “first step” in the crusade for Congressional action on climate change.

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz called for a reduction in global carbon emissions at a press conference held Wednesday, taking a different approach than the Green New Deal supported by many Democrats.

His plan is based on the premise that U.S. industries already have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the government should support further technological advances in clean energy by reducing regulation on those industries and investing in new technologies.

During the hearing Thursday, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), suggested that sections of the Climate Science Special Report Fourth National Climate Assessment show that there is no evidence that people are the cause of climate change.

That drew a quick reaction from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who noted that the entire report does conclude that human beings are a significant cause of climate change.

The sweeping scientific report, released by the Trump administration last year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, offered a grim outlook of the impacts climate change is already having in the United States.

The report says, “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.”

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