The Planet

Nancy Pelosi's blunt comments on climate change earned her a standing ovation in the new Congress.

by Annie Reneau

January 7, 2019
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi's colleagues rose to their feet at her suggestion that "Congress must put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future."

In her first address as Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi spoke about a myriad of topics. But her comments on climate change stood in stark contrast to the U.S. government's increasing apathy on the subject—and earned her a standing ovation on the floor of the Capitol.

After speaking about the need to be "champions of the middle class," Pelosi turned her attention to the future of the planet, and she didn't hold back.

"We must also face the existential threat of our time," she said, "the climate crisis – a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions. The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them."

She then announced the creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, saying, "The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future."

Standing ovation. Amen and hallelujah.

Pelosi described climate change as a public health, economic, security, and moral issue. She's right.

"This is a public health decision for clean air and clean water; an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology; a security decision to keep us safe; and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation," she said. That's about the most succinct explanation for why we need to address climate change immediately and urgently as I've ever seen.

As a reminder, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said, "Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal," and their special report released in October warned of catastrophic consequences if we do not take it seriously. And yet, the U.S. joined Russia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia in refusing to welcome the report at the U.N. climate summit in December, instead insisting it merely be "noted."

Pelosi's comments stand out as decidedly adult in a governmental climate of childish denial.

Aside from the full, coherent sentences, Pelosi's insistence that the U.S. government catch up to what the rest of the world already knows is refreshing. The future will not look kindly on the Trump administration's insistence on ignorance and inaction on climate change, and it's nice to see significant numbers of politicians standing up for science and research.

"We have no illusions that our work will be easy, that all of us in this chamber will always agree," Pelosi concluded. "But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth."

Respect the truth. That would be an excellent place for the U.S. government to start with every topic, but especially with one that threatens our very existence on the planet.

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Nancy Pelosi's blunt comments on climate change earned her a standing ovation in the new Congress.