Young Climate Warriors: Use Your Voice as well as Your Passion

Image removed.I recently spent two days at MIT talking with students about global warming, and it was one of the most inspiring things I have done in awhile. I loved hearing how fired up these young people are to invent the next wave of clean energy technologies.

The students grasp the terrible urgency of climate change. They know their generation will bear the brunt of this crisis if we do not start confronting it right now.

But like young people across the nation, MIT students also recognize the opportunity embedded within this challenge.

This is America's chance to create a green and sustainable energy future. This is the time to make solutions like plug-in hybrids, bike lanes, wind farms, and smart-growth neighborhoods the norm, not the exception.

I thanked the MIT students for their enthusiasm for designing the components — the car batteries that run longer or the solar panels that can be produced more cheaply — that will make those solutions commonplace.

But I also reminded them that to fight climate change, we don't just need their passion in the lab. We need it in the political arena as well. 

Because the fastest way for us to spread clean energy solutions across the nation is through smart policies. And the best way to put those policies in place is to demand that our senators pass the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act this fall.

This is the message I want to communicate to all young people on Blog Action Day.

Continue to work on whatever you feel passionate about, but don't forget the power of making your voice heard on Capitol Hill.

If you want to address poverty in America, tell your senators that the climate bill is a jobs bill. Together with the stimulus package and the climate bill passed by the House in June will create 1.7 million clean energy jobs, more than half of which would go to people with a high-school education or less.

If you are interested in finance, tell your senators that the climate bill will be the biggest driver of private investment in the coming years. California's clean energy economy, for instance, has already generated $6.5 billion in venture capital in the past three years.

If you are concerned about national security and foreign affairs, support the young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who have launched Operation Free. They are telling senators that America would be safer if we stopped fighting oil wars and started battling climate change instead.

Whatever issue you care most about, I urge you to raise your voice in support of the climate bill. This fight demands it.

It's true the bill has gathered new momentum in the last two weeks, thanks in part to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announcing his support for it and to numerous leading businesses that left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the group's opposition to it.

But believe me Congress still includes the same  oil and gas interests and lawmakers wedded to the energy status quo.

This group of naysayers, from the National Association of Manufacturers to the coal industry, would prefer we do nothing in the face of global warming.

They are setting up your generation to pay the price for delaying climate action, and they are getting in the way of your efforts to innovate, invent, and create a greener future.

That is why we need young people to speak up. Whatever action you take — whether you go to climate-related lectures on your campus or participate in regional climate summits hosted by youth group Power Shift 09 or write letters to the editor in your local paper — don't forget to reach out to your senators.

Click here and tell them you want them to pass a clean energy and climate bill now.