Our country is at a turning point. We are at a place where the history books will look back and remind the world how America took on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced: climate change. It’s a problem spanning ecology, economics and public health and will undoubtedly affect huge portions of the global population.

The Nobel Peace Prize was recently shared by the Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President Al Gore’s for their work to educate the public about global warming and advocate immediate action. Now we need our leaders in Congress to take action. The rest of the world is recognizing that we must act now to reverse the worst effects of global warming, but President Bush remains in denial and in the pocket of industry. That is why we need Congress to act now and not wait for presidential leadership that may never come.

What many people from Southeast Michigan do not realize is that the leadership can be wielded by Ann Arbor’s congressman, Rep. John Dingell (D). As the longest serving member in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell has a critical and powerful role in shaping legislation on global warming. His environmental record is noteworthy: He has either authored or championed such legislation as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

On the issue of global warming, however, Dingell, has failed us dismally. He is proposing a tax on gasoline and carbon emissions, but this falls far short of a comprehensive solution to meet his goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. He has in fact voted against renewable energy, offered nuclear power and liquid coal as clean energy solutions and opposed strong increases to automobile fuel economy standards. Dingell’s commitment and sincerity to global warming solutions is questionable.

This Saturday, thousands of people in hundreds of communities around the country will take part in rallies urging Congress to rise to the challenge of fighting global warming. The nationwide effort, called Step It Up, is the second of its kind. The first event in April raised the level of awareness and pressure on legislators, resulting in several presidential candidates and members of Congress starting the dialogue on a plan to fight global warming. This Saturday’s event will surely show our legislators that the time for talk is over and that the public expects action. Of all members of Congress, we expect leadership from Dingell.

Here in Ann Arbor, right on the University campus, residents in Dingell’s district can voice their concerns tomorrow. The local Step It Up rally, held at the base of Burton Bell Tower, will be held from noon to 2 p.m. There will be live music, speeches from climate leaders and a chance for attendees to participate at political action stations that include letter writing, phone calls and video postcards. This is the opportunity to make our voices heard about global warming to the most critical elected official who can and should do something about it. It’s Dingell’s responsibility to take action, and it’s our responsibility to make sure he does it.

Mary Sweeters is a field organizer for Project Hot Seat, Greenpeace USA.

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