Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin kicked off a climate change hearing on Wednesday by quoting his late colleague, the former Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who died last week.
During a 2016 hearing about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Cummings said, “Our children are the living messages that we send to a future that we’ll never see. The question is, will we rob them of their destiny? Will we rob them of their dreams? No, we will not do that.”
Those words are also relevant to efforts to combat climate change, Raskin said Wednesday.
Raskin, chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, convened the hearing to discuss the fossil fuel industry’s early knowledge of their products’ contributions to climate change.
He called climate change “the civilizational emergency of our times, which threatens all of the rights and freedoms of the people, including the right to live.”
He added, “Climate change is one of the preeminent emergencies facing our country. The evidence seems overwhelming that for decades, the oil industry understood the lethal threat of climate change but misled the American people and buried the scientific truth of climate change.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the vice chairwoman of the subcommittee, pointed to “documents going back decades showing that specifically Exxon Mobil or Exxon knew about climate change.”
The freshman Democrat also warned that “global warming is already wreaking havoc and displacing populations across the country and around the world,” and she stressed that minority communities are already among the hardest hit.
“In terms of the science and the modeling, do we see largely that it’s the global south and communities of color that may be bearing the brunt of the initial havoc from climate change?” she asked.
“Without a doubt,” replied Mustafa Ali, vice president for Environmental Justice Climate and Community Revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation. Those communities, he said, are “least likely to be able to escape or to make the transitions that others who maybe have more wealth can do.”
Exxon spokesman Steve Soper said in a statement about the hearing, “Climate change is a serious issue that requires the collective efforts of governments, individuals and companies to address in a meaningful way. Claims that company researchers reached definitive conclusions about climate change decades before the world’s experts are simply not accurate. Our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time, which mirrored global understanding. Cherry-picking statements is a tired tactic employed by activists to deliberately mislead the public, and has long been discredited.”