Ben Franklin said it best — nothing is certain, “except death and taxes.”
Like most Americans, we submit our 1040s to maintain the health of our nation. However, we’d personally rather decrease our income tax and instead pay a fee that reduces carbon pollution and could preserve the planet.
The carbon-intensive oil, gas, and coal industries are stoking climate change. According to a new UN report, the threats to our civilization are enormous. Crop failures, the top concern in the UN’s report, will cause widespread starvation in all parts of the world. Countries will face a cascade of destabilizing events: severe water shortages, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, rising sea levels and other catastrophes on an unprecedented scale. Civil wars and conflicts between nations will increase as people compete for scarce natural resources.
The good news is that while it is too late to avoid climate change — it’s already happening — humanity can still temper its force. One of the simplest ways to slow the pace of climate change is by levying a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.
Recently, I wrote on the consistent partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy over the last decade. Observant readers would have noted that in 2006, the House Republican’s average grade in the report card was far better than the average they received in any other year.
The dramatic rise in House Republicans’ average score in 2006 is a clear outlier: it’s a 26-point jump from the previous report card. The partisan divide in 2006 was 45 points, which is better than the 62 point gap in 2014, but still not so great. What caused this surprising bump in the House Republicans’ average grade?
Members of Congress are responsible for casting votes on issues of national importance, including foreign policy priorities. Many Representatives and Senators have a perfect voting record from our members’ perspective, earning an A on the Global Solutions Congressional Report Card. Yet some in Congress do more than cast a vote; they actively champion policies that prevent war, build peace, cooperate with international norms, and defend human rights. That’s why Global Solutions Action Network rewards extra credit to those in Congress that go beyond the ballot on our core issues.
Day in and day out, I hear too many partisan attacks on the news. I thought it may be getting worse than ever before. Partisanship ends at the water’s edge? Laughable. Recent news on Syria, Iran, and Ukraine had me once again shaking my head at Congress – we can’t even put together a unified face for America’s most pressing international concerns.
Despite the splitting headache I get from listening to Republicans and Democrats argue with each other on a daily basis, the decade’s worth of data collected by Global Solutions Action Network reveals that the partisan divide on global issues is a phenomenon of consistency but isn’t necessarily getting worse. Over the course of 10 years, there’s been an average partisan divide of 62 points in the House and 70 points in the Senate.
For Global Solutions Action Network members, how Congress deals with international concerns is of critical importance. Where do you want your elected leaders to stand on climate security and energy policy? Nuclear weapons proliferation and funding peacekeeping efforts?
The 2014 Congressional Report Card is where Members of Congress are graded on these and other global issues as votes in the immediate past session.
Creating a report card that covers climate security, treaty ratification and human rights is a long and detailed process but was well worth the effort for how it empowers citizens. After scouring the Library of Congress for roll call votes on issues of global importance and surveying our members on which reflected their concerns most, we narrowed our list to 10 votes for each chamber of Congress on which to grade lawmakers.
So what grade did your Senator and Representative receive this term?
Some members of Congress did outright awfully, while others were shining examples of the international leadership which the U.S. Congress should represent. The pictured charts display how many Senators and Representatives got which letter grades.
Last week The Washington Post reported that an unusually large number of ambassador appointments are being held up by the U.S. Senate, threatening both American interests abroad and a variety of humanitarian interests around the world. This backlog is unacceptable, and the Senate needs to act immediately to ensure the United States embassies are fully staffed.
First, a quick recap: as of last week, 33 nominations to ambassadorships around the world have not been voted on by the U.S. Senate, along with several other key foreign service posts. These include ambassadors to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Argentina, Cameroon, Switzerland, Bosnia, and New Zealand, among many others. They range from the U.S.’s most important allies to key players in crises in the Middle East and Africa to strategic partners in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific. Half the ambassadorial nominations have been waiting for over six months, apparently held up by the use of the “nuclear option” to end the use of the filibuster on most presidential appointments. It seems a new, less formal filibuster has developed.
Are we witnessing the last Winter Olympics held in Sochi? The Russian games are already relying primarily on manmade snow. SMI Snowmakers, a Michigan-based company, has spent the last 4 years designing and installing a system that has blown the equivalent of 920 football fields of snow onto Sochi’s slopes.
Will other winter games sites including Squaw Valley, Vancouver and Grenoble also fall victim to climate change induced weather patterns that are literally melting down the list of available host venues? The answer, according to a recent study, is a resounding yes. In all but the lowest greenhouse gas emissions estimates, the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2° C will not be met. And as a result warmer winters will mean less snow.
We welcome the following contribution to The Global Citizen by Aric Caplan, President of Caplan Communications. His fuller analysis on the intersection of climate denialism and Congressional campaign contributions can be found here.
Voters are coming to grips with our many elected officials beholden to the fossil fuel industry that finances their reelections. The Center for American Progress recently reported that 160 members of the 113th Congress have taken over $55.5 million from the industry that drives carbon pollution, which also causes climate change.