Climate change cannot wait

This country and the planet cannot afford to delay climate and clean energy legislation. It is that simple. Every day Washington politics puts our clean energy future on hold our economy gets weaker, our enemies get stronger, and the planet gets more polluted. It has been almost a year since the House approved comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation to create jobs, cut our oil imports in half and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens us all, and we are still waiting for the Senate to act. The time is now for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that jump-starts our economy, strengthens national security, and leads to a healthier planet.

The petitions, rallies, e-mails and letters from around the country are sending a loud and clear message of broad support. The NRDC Action Fund has worked tirelessly to urge the Senate to stand up for a strong clean energy and climate bill. And just last week Capitol Hill saw a display of this commitment as "tens of thousands...gathered on the National Mall for a concert and rally" not only to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day but to call "for real leadership in the Senate".

The President has also been crystal clear in his call to take action for passing "comprehensive clean energy and climate bill 'that will safeguard our planet, and spur innovation and help us to compete in the 21st Century."

Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have dedicated months to pulling together a Senate bill. As Representative Ed Markey asserts, "Right now we've got the best chance [to pass the legislation] in a generation...and it would just be a shame to lose it". A delay in climate legislation would be more than just a shame, but, in the words of Thomas Freidman, "a disaster".

Of course, Mr. Freidman is giving voice to the concerns of many. Not passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation now means we are not only racing toward a potential tipping point ecologically, but we are postponing economic growth and threatening national security.

It has been almost two decades since 1,600 senior scientists from 70 countries signed the statement warning "all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it, is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated."

A comprehensive clean energy policy will "boost growth, create 2.8 million jobs, slash pollution" and drastically cut our dependence on foreign oil.

The U.S. Department of Defense declared "climate change a national security threat", that will "contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration."

Our inaction also raises doubt in the rest of the world that America is still able to provide leadership on issues of global concern. We are already getting left behind as we continue to sit on the sidelines while "China is...leading the world...in wind production and...solar production." This country was not built on the principle of inaction. Our founders were leaders who risked everything to make this country great.

The Senate has the historic opportunity to flip the switch and get onto a path to a prosperous and sustainable future. The truth is, "This generation of politicians is the last generation who have it in their power to secure the future of our planet, to safeguard the health and livelihoods of millions of people and the habitats that sustain their lives. History will not forgive them if they fail to act."

So we need members from all parties, the officials elected to lead this country, to sit down now and get this bill back on track - for us and the generations to come.

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the director of the NRDC Action Fund. Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.