In January I realized we faced another national election year in which the only mention of climate change would be of how little climate change was mentioned. I couldn’t stomach the prospect.
In 2000 an off-hand comment by a friend about global warming sent me to my local library to investigate. For the next 10 years I read about scientists’ studies of climate change and became increasingly alarmed. In 2009, while looking for a job in the clean energy industry, I asked a venture capitalist why the sector wasn’t growing faster. He answered, “Clean energy won’t take off until there is a price on carbon.” In 2011 I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), an international grassroots political organization working to put a price on carbon. During my time as a CCL volunteer, including as Northeast Regional Coordinator and Massachusetts State Coordinator, I went to Washington, D.C. nine times. I participated in about 50 meetings with members of Congress or their staffs.
While working to promote carbon pricing legislation on Capitol Hill, I continued following the progress of climate scientists. In 2017, as I was participating in meetings with legislators in June and November, two things were on my mind. One was that scientists had recently increased their estimate of sea level rise expected this century from three feet to six feet; the other was that the average global temperature was as high as it is today, three and a half million years ago, sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher.
These scientific results convinced me that society will not avoid the worst effects of climate change without taking bold action. But my conversations with legislators and staff on Capitol Hill in 2017 indicated to me that most members of Congress do not understand the urgency. They continue to cling to the belief that incremental policy changes will achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions we need to stave off disaster. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since the conclusions of climate science impact economic interests, they are regularly called into question by affected industries. These efforts to undermine the evidence-based conclusions of climate scientists, combined with legislators’ lack of scientific backgrounds and unwillingness to take political risks, have delayed our nation’s response to the climate crisis. But with atmospheric CO2 concentrations already dangerously high and increasing at historically high rates, sea level rise accelerating, and extreme weather battering many areas in America and regions around the globe, the window is rapidly closing on humanity’s opportunity to avoid the worst effects of climate change. This is why I cannot stomach another election year that does not include a debate about national action to address climate change. The practice of ignoring climate change during national elections must end.
The only way to ensure that this debate takes place is to challenge incumbent members of Congress on the basis of their positions on climate change. I have decided to contest the U.S. House seat for the Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District, the seat currently held by Rep. Joe Kennedy III. On May 20th, the Secretary of the Commonwealth certified that I had collected the signatures required to place my name on the Democratic Primary ballot. My campaign faces an uphill battle in the upcoming primary. As I’ve said to many people on the campaign trail, however, “I’m a climate activist. I face an uphill battle in any case.”
The House of Representatives needs a member who will bring the same passion, energy, and knowledge to the issue of climate change that Sen. Elizabeth Warren brings to the issues of Wall Street reform and making the economy work for everyone. As someone with a Ph.D. in physics and an understanding of the types of solutions required to avoid the worst effects of climate change, I can be that member.
I ask constituents of the Fourth District to give my campaign a look. I ask Rep. Kennedy to join me in holding town hall meetings to discuss climate policy and other important issues of the day. Only then will voters know which of us is more qualified to lead the fight in Congress on the highest priority threat facing us as a nation and as a species.