Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders compares climate skeptics to tobacco’s defenders

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, April 22 – While his fellow members of the U.S. Senate issued upbeat Earth Day comments, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) celebrated Earth Day by warning that “Despite the scientific evidence, some of my colleagues in Congress still tell the public that global warming is a ‘hoax’.”

“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the most serious environmental problem that we face is not global warming or the pollution of our air, water, land and food,” Sanders said. “It is whether or not our country moves forward in developing public policy based on science or whether we make decisions based on politics and fear mongering.”

Sanders stated that “There is no serious dispute within the scientific community and in peer-reviewed journals that global warming is real and that it is significantly caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Virtually the only people who disagree with this conclusion are representatives of the oil and coal companies, their apologists in the media and those on Capitol Hill who are stubborn defenders of their big polluter patrons.”

“As Congress debates global warming, it reminds me of those congressional hearings where tobacco company executives swore under oath that the nicotine they put in cigarettes was not addictive. Some people in Congress believed them. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, the wealthy and powerful tobacco lobby had many allies in Congress toeing the company line.”

Sanders insists that “Like the evidence that tobacco kills, the science on global warming is overwhelming. Our top U.S. scientists tell us that unchecked global warming also means increased risks of regional flooding and drought, increased risk to human health and more extreme weather events.”

The “real global warming scandal,” according to Sanders, “is that the oil companies and the coal industry and others with an economic stake in the status quo are using the tobacco-industry playbook to confuse the public and prevent Congress from taking strong action. Exxon-Mobil, for example, has spent more than $24 million since 1998 to fund organizations that are willing to dispute the consensus on global warming. Oil and gas companies spent $154 million lobbying Congress in 2009 alone trying to block legislation to move our county away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy.”

Sanders concludes that “As we celebrate this Earth Day, we can make this the year when we stop arguing about the science, and start doing something truly significant about global warming. That would make 2010 a year to celebrate for generations to come.”

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