Regulate or Suffer

Gun Control and Climate Barriers Are Political

Credit: Peter Kuper, PoliticalCartoons.com

When children are cruelly gunned down in their school, I’m heartbroken, and I’m outraged about the ongoing danger to my grandson and all school children in our country. Endless mass shootings and gun deaths yet Congress won’t pass common sense gun regulations!

The barriers to effective gun control are entirely political. Lawmakers and activists have not been able to overcome Republican insistence on unregulated guns despite the epidemic of mass shootings. Although 90 percent of Americans — including nearly 74 percent of NRA members — support background checks, Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, have used the filibuster to paralyze Congress.

Speaking about mass shootings at the recent World Economic Forum, Al Gore said: “[The] reasons why the United States has been incapable of responding to these tragedies are the same reasons — lobbying, campaign contributions, the capture of policymaking, the control of politicians with money, lobbyists — that it has been impossible to pass climate legislation. Our democracy has been paralyzed, bought, captured. It has to stop.”

The barriers to effective climate regulations are entirely political. Lawmakers and activists have not been able to overcome Republican insistence on unrestricted fossil fuel use despite the deadly effects of their pollution and the dangerous global temperature increases they are causing. Although 72 percent of Americans support regulating greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant, Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, have used the filibuster to paralyze Congress.

We are rapidly running out of time to stabilize our climate. Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere reach a peak every May. The amount of planet-overheating carbon dioxide just broke the previous record, continuing its relentless climb. The concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million as power plants, vehicles, farms, and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

There is more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now than at any time in at least 4 million years. As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming, with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by people worldwide.

Effective climate regulations are crucial for improving public health now and for maintaining a livable world in the future. A key example is carbon fee-and-dividend legislation, which would accelerate our transition to clean energy and save lives. It requires coal, oil, and gas companies to pay an increasing fee on their carbon pollution. This approach also provides revenue that would offset increased energy costs for low-and-middle-income households.

Santa Barbara Congressman Salud Carbajal is a co-sponsor of legislation to do just this. As a tireless advocate for our environment Carbajal deserves our vote so he can continue to be our climate champion in Washington. We also need many more like him to overcome Congressional paralysis.

We all complain about regulations but the thing that is worse than regulations is no regulations. Whether it’s guns or greenhouse gas emissions, we need strong regulations or our suffering will continue.

John D. Kelley is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby, Santa Barbara Chapter.

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