Originally posted at the Wonk Room.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told the Politico last week that “environmentalists will be forced to compromise next year and support the development of clean coal, nuclear power and other alternative fuels”:

We need to be able to address a national energy strategy and then try to work on environmental efficiencies as part of that plan. We can’t just start with things like emission standards at a time when we’re at a crisis with the entire national energy policy.

Webb’s concept that one can construct a “national energy strategy” first — then “try to work on environmental efficiencies” second — is completely misguided. The fuel-price shocks that rightly concern Webb are inextricably linked with the climate crisis. Numerous scientific, economic, and governmental reports make clear that the degradation of the planet’s climate system is threatening our economic and national security. As Al Gore described, “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”

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The League of Women Voters — a civic, not environmentalist organization — recognizes how our national energy policy needs to change, as their call for a moratorium on all new coal plants makes clear. In the words of national League President Mary G. Wilson, “Global warming is happening now.” She explains that Congress is failing its mission:

If we wait for federal action from our congressional leaders, it will be too late. We must take immediate and aggressive action to halt climate change. Burning more coal is too big a risk for too many people. Coal is the single largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S., with power plants responsible for 33 percent of CO2 emissions. Because of this pollution, we already face increasingly severe heat waves and droughts, intensifying hurricanes and floods, disappearing glaciers and more wildfires. If left unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic to us and our planet.

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Webb seems to fail to comprehend the immediacy of the climate crisis. Hopefully he will become part of the solution before it’s too late. As Webb himself wrote, in “What It Means To Be A Leader”:

To the American voters, I offer this advice: Be as shrewd and ruthless in your demands on our leaders as the wizards running campaigns are in their strategies to get your vote. Do your part to send to Washington people who truly want to solve the problems of this country from the bottom up.

You won’t regret it. You will benefit from it. And the stakes could not be higher. Sometimes the business of politics seems silly. It can also be infuriating. But you must stay in the game, because you and your grandchildren will be the inheritors of both our successes and flaws.

More at the Wonk Room, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.