November 30, 2018*
We are unions participating in Trade Unions for Energy Democracy in the U.S. representing workers in health, manufacturing, hospitality, education, and human services. We have been working in our unions to raise awareness of the devastating effects of climate change and advocating for Labor action to protect the Earth’s climate and defend our jobs.
Now, we are challenged to redouble our efforts by the recently published Fourth National Climate Assessment, which describes the destruction already wrought by climate change and what the U.S. can expect if current warming trends continue.
Released on November 23, 2018, the new report warns of the likely impact on human health and welfare, the natural environment, energy production and use, land and water resources, and transportation. It thus underscores the urgent need for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
In recent months, floods from Hurricane Florence on the south eastern coast of the U.S. have left over 50 dead, hundreds displaced from their homes, and toxic coal ash spread throughout the region. On the west coast, multiple wildfires in California have resulted in some of the most toxic air pollution in the world, and have left at least 88 dead, with more than 200 still missing as of November 26, 2018. In Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria ravaged the Island over a year ago, the death toll due to this unprecedented climate disaster is over 4,600. During 2017—the second-hottest year in U.S. history—extreme weather and climate-related events inflicted a record-breaking $306 billion in damages. If we continue with “business as usual,” by the end of the century, climate damages could cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion a year with major job losses in multiple sectors.
As progressive unions, we are committed to working with legislators on the national and local levels to develop policies needed so that workers whose jobs will be affected are ensured a just transition. We are also committed to developing the kind of policies needed for the U.S. to make its rightful contribution to the global effort to limit warming to less than 1.5˚C, a target supported by nearly every country in the world under the Paris Agreement. We welcome the ambitious clean energy and emissions targets adopted by many states and cities — but ambition must be matched by implementation.
Many of our members live in communities that are vulnerable to the effects of climate disaster, and recognize that we are all at risk to the devastating consequences of a warming planet if we do not rapidly reduce carbon emissions.
* Statement originally issued 30 November 2018; some unions have signed on subsequently. Unions are invited to sign on to the statement on an ongoing basis.