Despite widespread, cross-partisan support for changes to address the climate crisis, American political policy languishes in gridlock and inaction. The reason is likely tied to the fossil fuel industry’s outsized influence over elected officials—thanks to its massive political contributions.
Big money in politics is inextricably tied to the issues affecting our nation and our planet—and it’s the reason the issues most Americans care about aren’t addressed in political policy. The climate crisis is no exception. On Friday, Sept. 20, an estimated 4 million people took part in the Global Climate Strike to demand action on the climate crisis, kicking off a week of demonstrations. A majority of Americans across the political spectrum, including 95 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans, support policies to transition to clean or renewable energy sources.
If acting on the political will of most Americans, U.S. policymakers would start tackling climate change immediately. Effective policies have been proposed but have not gotten far. Placing a price on carbon—through taxes on fossil fuels or caps on emissions—is one policy experts say would help significantly mitigate the effects of climate change. Ten states currently have carbon pricing policies, but the federal government has not enacted a similar national policy despite its effectiveness.
Why, then, have lawmakers not advanced the drastic action required to face this monumental crisis? Likely because of the huge political influence and financial support from industries such as the oil and gas industry, which amass enormous wealth from industrial practices that pollute the Earth and drive global warming.
Over the past several decades, the oil and gas industry has pumped more than $600 million into our elections and consistently ranks among the top 20 industries for political contributions. In 2016 alone, the industry contributed more than $100 million to elections. The top 100 fossil fuel companies are responsible for 71 percent of all global emissions.
Tackling the climate crisis is critical for the health of our planet and every creature who lives here, as well as our future economic stability. And cutting the flow of industry dollars to policy makers is crucial if Americans hope to address the climate crisis on a national scale. At American Promise, we are spearheading the cross-partisan, grassroots movement for a 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. When We the People reclaim power from moneyed interests, politicians will have to listen to their constituents who are calling on them to consider the future and act to save the planet.