The scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming, with human activity identified as the most significant cause. Using data from around the globe, experts have confirmed 2014 was the warmest year on record, with severe weather events also on the rise. And more than 80 percent of Americans want Congress to take action to address climate change.
But inside the Beltway, there is a dangerous climate of denial. That’s why Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee recently organized a forum in Annapolis, Md. — just 30 miles from Washington — to get out of that bubble. We heard testimony from Republican Mayor Mike Pantelides and Vice Admiral Walter “Ted” Carter, two leaders who are all too aware of the devastating impacts of our changing climate and who cannot afford to allow ideology to trump sound science.
Over the past 50 years, Annapolis experienced the greatest increase in nuisance flooding — that is, flooding which closes roads, overwhelms stormwater drains and damages infrastructure — of any city in the country. Today, Annapolis expects nearly 50 flooding events every year, up from an average of four annual flooding events just 50 years prior. And according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the city should expect flooding events to occur every single day of the year by 2045. The city must invest millions of dollars to mitigate flooding today and prepare for more in the years ahead.
These problems are not confined to cities in Maryland, New Jersey or even just coastal communities. Local governments across the country are having to deal with the realities of extreme weather events such as drought and flooding, the consequences of disrupted ecosystems and the threat of increasing security risks.
At the Naval Academy, our future military leaders learn about the science of climate change and the national security consequences that stem from it. Carter, the academy’s superintendent, testified they are preparing the campus for an increase in extreme weather events and rising sea levels due to climate change. Several major projects are in motion, retrofitting older buildings and new buildings that serve as sea walls to protect the rest of the campus.
Democrats and Republicans in local communities are coming together to fight climate change. So the American people must ask Congress: When will you step up on the side of everyday Americans who want the next generation to inherit a healthy planet and a thriving, sustainable economy?
Climate change is the challenge of our generation. In Congress, we must move from complacency to urgency. We must find the courage to act because it would be shameful to leave the potentially catastrophic costs of inaction to our children and grandchildren.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., also serves on the committee.