As the mercury soars over 100 degrees in South America even in the depths of winter, it’s a stark reminder of the imminent climate crisis that our planet is grappling with. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is standing up to say enough is enough. Sanders is demanding that federal officials treat the fossil fuel industry with the same rigorous accountability that Big Tobacco faced decades ago, calling out their extensive climate change denial campaigns.
In a passionate op-ed, Sanders throws a spotlight on the fossil fuel industry’s flagrant disregard for laws around racketeering, advertising, and consumer protection. He pulls no punches, accusing these companies of consciously condemning future generations to an unlivable planet due to their relentless pursuit of profit.
Sanders wrote, “The fossil fuel companies knew. They knew they were causing global warming and threatening the very existence of the planet… Yet, in pursuit of profit, fossil fuel executives…lied about that existential threat. And they continue to fund misinformation campaigns today.”
For over six decades, scientists have urged fossil fuel companies to acknowledge the devastating environmental consequences of their operations. These executives had the opportunity to transition their businesses toward renewable energy sources. They chose instead to downplay their own scientific findings and initiate a broad disinformation campaign reminiscent of Big Tobacco, effectively halting climate action.
However, Sanders sees a way forward, a path to mitigate the worsening crisis if government officials have the courage to take it.
He wrote, “[W]hen fossil fuel executives make calculated decisions that threaten millions of lives — and the planet itself — we are told that ‘it’s just business.’ That’s not acceptable… Like the tobacco industry before them, the fossil fuel companies’ actions represent a clear violation” of laws intended to prevent such widespread deception.
Sanders also criticized the growing political tensions with China. He underscored the urgency of global cooperation, instead of a “new cold war,” to combat climate change effectively.
His op-ed follows a letter that Sanders, alongside Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), sent to the DOJ, imploring them to take legal action against the fossil fuel industry for their deceptive practices.
Concluding his op-ed, Sanders stressed that the fossil fuel industry must start shouldering the costs for the extensive damage it has caused. He declared, “Climate change is an existential threat to every person on Earth… And those most responsible for this global crisis must finally be held accountable.”
The call for accountability has never been more urgent. It’s high time that the giants of the fossil fuel industry answer for their actions and face the consequences.