It’s time for Rep. Elise Stefanik to choose a side in climate crisis

The time has come for Rep. Elise Stefanik to choose a side in the climate change crisis. She must decide if she values the lives of the North Country’s youth or money.

Since she has taken office, Rep. Stefanik has taken over $100,000 from fossil fuel giants like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil (1). She has publicly stated that she believes climate change is real (2). She admits to the dangers of climate change, yet she accepts money from the very entities which fuel it. And for what purposes? To safeguard the corrupt system of political gain that fossil fuel billionaires have built? In taking this money, she has knowingly sold my and my fellow youth’s futures to a corporation. 

Rep. Stefanik sits on Congress’ Climate Solutions Caucus and the GOP’s Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, and represents a district which includes a 2 million-acre stretch of Forest Preserve, yet she has not pushed for any real climate-smart legislation. She has not supported the Energy Innovations and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) and flat-out rejects the Green New Deal (H.R. 109). Instead of addressing the clear and present dangers of global climate change, she dedicates her time to showboating in impeachment hearings, claiming to be a champion for millions of Americans and for the people of NY21. The fact is that she talks but does not listen to the most vulnerable constituents of her district: young people who will have to live in the age of climate change. 

The people of NY21 are in the direct path of climate change. Our district includes some of the poorest communities in New York state. We have a lack of access to health care. We are already seeing the creeping front of tick-borne diseases in the northeastern U.S. as our forests and weather patterns gradually turn in their favor (3). We are already experiencing the downward trend of winter-tourism as annual snow-fall decreases (4). These are problems that any resident of NY21 recognizes and topics which entered the local dialogue since the Sept. 20 Youth Climate Strike. So why has Stefanik remained inactive? Are bipartisan politics more important than preventing deaths from vector-borne diseases? Is the money of a known climate denier, ExxonMobil, more important than the human right to clean air and a livable future? She has not answered, so we must assume that either she does not hear us or has not chosen a side.

Perhaps she does not see the writing on the wall that myself and other youth of NY21 see. She does not understand there are over 400 ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere and that this number rises every day, threatening to choke out our future. She appears to only see the political and financial gain of the present. We, the youth of NY21, reject this inaction. We will not let the agenda of a politician imperil our right to a habitable earth. We demand action, and we demand it now.

It is Rep. Stefanik’s job to advocate for the economic, social and public health of our district. Global climate change is a direct threat to all of these aspects of life in the North Country. We demand that she rescind the money of fossil fuel executives, declare a climate emergency and back the Green New Deal. 

If she has chosen money over our existence, she has vastly underestimated the power of the North Country’s youth. The cold winters up here have given us something special: pure grit and persistence. We will never stop fighting for prosperity. A denial to our demands will be her choice to favor money over human lives. In this case, we will take to the polls to vote her out of office in November 2020. Rep. Elise Stefanik can join us in our effort, or she can get out of the way. We have no time for inaction.

Madeline Clark lives in Saranac Lake.


1. OpenSecrets.org. “Rep. Elise Stefanik – New York District 21.” OpenSecrets, https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/contributors?cid=N00035523&cycle=2018

2. “Environment.” Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, https://stefanik.house.gov/issues/environment

3. Ostfeld, Richard S., and Jesse L. Brunner. “Climate change and Ixodes tick-borne diseases of humans.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370.1665 (2015): 20140051

4. Scott, Daniel, et al. “Climate change and the sustainability of ski-based tourism in eastern North America: A reassessment.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 14.4 (2006): 376-398


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