The Fight Against the Climate Crisis

Five months after my birth, in September of 1998, Hurricane Georges crossed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, making several landfalls and causing massive destruction along the way. At the time, President Clinton moved quickly to aid the American citizens in the battered Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. First Lady Hillary Clinton even visited the island of Puerto Rico, my homeland, less than a week after the storm.

Almost exactly nineteen years later, in September of 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, leaving a path of devastation in our most vulnerable communities. Thousands of people died, and even more were displaced from their homes, jobs and day-to-day lives. I have lost family members in the aftermath of the storm. Life on the island has not been the same since then.

When President Donald Trump visited the island after the storm, he met with our then Governor Ricardo Roselló, came to my city to throw some rolls of paper towels into a crowd and said that we “were throwing [the federal budget] out of whack” and that we “hadn’t endured a real catastrophe like Katrina”. Even disregarding his blatant disrespect and obvious lack of care for the American citizens living in Puerto Rico, it has been clear that the President’s message on the effects of global warming on the climate is non-existent at best and actively dangerous at worst. Rising sea levels have displaced families from their coastal homes. Climbing temperatures have led to a rise in plague-transmitting pests, droughts and the occasional bushfires. Seismic activity is only increasing in both frequency and intensity. People pray every year that we aren’t hit by another severe hurricane while under lockdown during a massive dust cloud over the island. Living in Puerto Rico, you only grow more concerned about the present climate crisis and the culture of denial being bolstered by your President.

At almost every opportunity, President Trump has scoffed at the idea of climate change being a real thing that causes lasting economic and environmental damage. The President has outright laughed at studies done by U.S. Government scientists about the lasting damage done by carbon dioxide emissions. (His cabinet members then referred to the studies as “alarmist”). He rolled back Obama-era plans and policies that would have led to a decrease of carbon emissions through clean power initiatives. In addition, he ordered the EPA to stop gathering data from oil and gas companies (who he regularly takes donations from). He even has consistently selected top officials in almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health who dispute the mainstream consensus on the urgency of climate action.

Donald Trump is unequivocally a climate change denier. He will tell you so himself. And as someone who has seen the lasting effects of higher temperatures creating stronger storms in the Atlantic, from the loss of loved ones to friends and family fleeing the island, the President’s flippant ignorance on the issue isn’t something I could ever support. Despite not being able to vote in the General Election, I am 100% behind Vice President Joe Biden this November.

The first climate-related bill ever introduced to the United States Senate was pioneered by none other than then Delaware Senator Joe Biden in 1986. The Global Climate Protection Act would have directed the President to establish a Task Force on the Global Climate to research, develop, and implement a coordinated national strategy on global climate. While it ended up dead on the Senate floor, it established the foundation for legislative action against the impending climate crisis that was to dominate the policy conversation in the United States in the following decades. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we saw the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law, the introduction of the Clean Power Plan (which Trump did away with in 2019) and the inclusion of the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord (the U.S. withdrew from the Agreement in 2017, under the current administration).

While record matters a whole lot, so do the policies and plans put forward to fight actively against climate change in both the country and the world. Vice President Biden plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, ensure that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and enact measures to actively decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the air. Stepping up to join the global fight against climate change is a quality I expect from a leader like the Vice President.

When it comes to the issues that matter to me the most, Vice President Biden understands the importance of meeting the moment with action. The effects that the climate has had on communities like mine has led to an increase in migration within the U.S. and across the globe. I have had friends who were not able to continue living in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria’s destruction of what we once considered to be normal, everyday life. Our infrastructure is weak and has only become weaker by the storms and the earthquakes we have endured. The Vice President has multiple plans focusing on building a nation that is able to withstand the impact of climate change as we actively fight against it, whether it be rebuilding fragile electrical grids or allocating the necessary funds to make sure our homes are resilient enough to withstand the effects of the climate. Economic prosperity through infrastructural design and innovation is a big part of what the Vice President plans to do once in office.

After the storm, everyone I talked to seemed to have a horror story to tell in relation to insurance and the allocation of funds by FEMA on the island. The Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Donald Trump dropped discussions of climate change from its strategic plan. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden plans to work with the insurance industry to identify ways to lower property insurance premiums for homeowners and communities who invest in resilience. He also has a plan to bring together the best innovators to help design common-sense zoning and building codes and help communities build and rebuild before and after natural disasters and other shocks and stresses, which would directly positively affect the lives of me and my loved ones after a natural disaster.

While President Trump is busy dismissing Puerto Ricans and our struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Vice President Biden seeks to engage with us as a community and help us as American citizens so that we can continue the fight against climate change in our island and in our country. From working with world leaders to establishing progressive projects and forces within the country, Vice President Joe Biden is more than ready to meet the moment and join the fight against the climate crisis looming over us.

Originally published at https://bidenwarroom.org on July 7, 2020.

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Independent Grassroots organization dedicated to electing @JoeBiden as the 46th President of the United States. Inquiries: Press@BidenWarRoom.org