For decades, fossil fuel corporations have knowingly polluted our air, poisoned our water, and destroyed our planet in exchange for billions in short term profits. What the scientists are telling us now is that we must act immediately and boldly to have a chance to avert total climate catastrophe.
The effects of climate change are not something to worry about for the future — Utah is feeling them now. A decade ago, 65,000 acres in Utah burned in wildfires. Last year, that number was half a million acres. Climate change is raising temperatures in Utah faster than the national average, which will contribute to longer, more destructive fire seasons, less snowfall, and less water in Utah reservoirs. If we do not act, the economic and environmental costs of climate change will be drastic.
That’s why I have proposed the most comprehensive plan to fight climate change and create good-paying jobs of any presidential candidate in history. As president, I am going to take on the fossil fuel industry who are destroying our public lands and polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink. We will reverse Trump’s efforts to shrink our national monuments and parks, protecting the Indigenous peoples and wildlife who have long called it home, and we will ban all fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
Our public lands are a national treasure. They belong to all of us. Instead of selling them off to the highest bidder and allowing them to be destroyed by billionaire fossil fuel industry executives, we are going to expand our green infrastructure and create jobs conserving our public lands. Our public lands also serve an important role in not only preventing climate change but also in mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change like floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather that have been increasing in frequency.
The outdoor recreation industry in Utah, largely reliant on Utah’s vast and beautiful public lands, supports more than 100,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. We must preserve these lands and ensure that all Americans have access to urban, suburban and rural recreational green space that are vital to our national heritage and our country’s tradition of recreation and conservation.
We will also guarantee safe drinking water as a human right. It is unacceptable that 90 percent of Utah schools recently sampled had lead in their water. We will pass the WATER Act, to provide $35 billion annually to overhaul our drinking and wastewater systems and remove toxins and lead from our water supply. And we will invest more than $500 billion over ten years to ensure our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Together, we will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a 10-year, nationwide mobilization centered around justice and equity during which climate change will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond. We will fundamentally transform our planet away from fossil fuels and towards energy efficiency and sustainable energy. And when we do that we will create 20 million good-paying jobs in the process manufacturing wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars and high-speed rail systems, weatherizing millions of homes and buildings, and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.
We must also recognize that the threat of climate change is not just an American issue. It is a global issue.
The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation and working together that is exactly what we must do.
As a nation and as a planet, let us stand together and boldly embrace the moral imperative of addressing the existential threat of climate change and mobilize the political will necessary to end the greed and the corruption of the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the survival of our planet.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a Democratic candidate for president of the United States.