U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with the Democrats and even sought the party’s presidential nomination twice, on Tuesday tried to convince Fox News‘ predominantly Republican audience that not only are scientists right about fossil fuels dangerously warming the planet, but swift and sweeping climate action “is a moral responsibility.”
Sanders is no stranger to Fox‘s opinion page, having previously authored articles on everything from Big Pharma and corporate greed to Medicare for All and Social Security. However, his latest piece—”Climate Change Is a Threat to the Planet: We Must Address It”—takes on a topic readers of the right-wing network’s website aren’t necessarily eager to tackle.
The results of an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published last week showed that 53% of Americans—including 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents—believed that addressing climate change should be given priority, even at the risk of slowing economic growth. However, 72% of Republicans said the economy should be given priority, even at the risk of ignoring climate change, a 13-point increase from 2018, despite more frequent and devastating extreme weather events in recent years.
Survey results released in November by Climate Action Against Disinformation revealed that among U.S. respondents, belief in climate misinformation “was consistently highest among regular Fox News consumers,” with majorities of the network’s audience accepting lies about electric vehicles, fossil fuels, renewable energy, and whether scientists largely agree or disagree on what causes climate change.
Sanders, in his new piece, spent several paragraphs addressing claims that “climate change is not real. Or, if it is, it has nothing to do with carbon emissions—and there is nothing we can do about it.”
Then, he wrote: “If this is what you believe I would respectfully disagree and I would urge you to get on the phone and call friends and family around the country to hear about what their communities are experiencing. I would also suggest that you check out (reliable) websites and take a look at what’s going on in virtually every part of the world.”
While fossil fuel giants rake in billions of dollars, communities across the United States and around the world are enduring unprecedented and deadly extreme heat. July is expected to have been the hottest month in recorded history.
The senator highlighted recent records in Brownsville, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as various locations in China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and European countries. He pointed out that “parts of the Middle East exceeded 150°F—near the most intense heat that the human body can survive. It’s winter right now in South America, but that hasn’t stopped temperatures from exceeding 100°F in some places.”
“And it’s not just that temperatures have been soaring on land. Our oceans have never been warmer. Right now, 44% of the world’s oceans are experiencing a marine heatwave,” Sanders noted. He also laid out in plain language how scientists have concluded that human activity—particularly the use of fossil fuels—has created current conditions.
Sanders emphasized the dangers of rising temperatures, explaining that they “create more flooding, extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, and disease. And that means more human suffering, death, mass migrations, and international instability.” He also appeared to address readers who may still argue for prioritizing the economy over the climate emergency:
Climate change will not only impact the physical well-being of humans, it will also have enormous economic implications. The Deloitte Economics Institute estimates that if left unchecked climate change could cost the global economy $178 trillion over the next 50 years as a result of lower productivity and employment, food and water scarcity, and worsening health and well-being. We’ll also have to spend huge amounts of money repairing the damage that extreme weather causes.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change, save a great deal of money, and make our energy grid more resilient by transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“While the path forward to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for planet Earth will not be easy, and mistakes will certainly be made, the choice we face is pretty clear,” Sanders warned. “Either we maintain the status quo and continue to see more heatwaves, drought, floods, and extreme weather disturbances or we move away from fossil fuels and do our best to make sure that the planet we leave our kids and future generations is healthy and habitable.”