In both the inaugural address and State of the Union address, President Obama drew attention to an issue often ignored in major newspapers and the Halls of Congress: climate change.
Today, there is almost complete consensus on the science of climate change. We know that higher concentrations of greenhouse gases over the past 50 years and rapid increase in global temperature could not have been caused by natural factors alone. Further, the severe temperatures and extreme weather events we have experienced in recent years fit the predictive pattern of global climate change.
As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late…for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”
But even in the face of overwhelming scientific research, the House Republican majority has voted to overturn EPA’s finding that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a danger to human health and the environment. As the ranking member on the House Interior and Environment Subcommittee, I have witnessed firsthand, and successfully fought, Republican efforts not just to block EPA from regulating new sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but to weaken implementation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act to protect us from toxic air pollution.
I hold little hope that the current House majority will part from its efforts to weaken existing environmental laws. Given this reality, I have joined with 22 lawmakers to establish the Safe Climate Caucus. This group has committed to speak at least once every legislative day on the House floor on climate change; each day reminding the American public about the urgent need to address climate change. I will also encourage President Obama to use his existing power under the Clean Air Act to aggressively reduce carbon emissions from major sources, such as outdated and under-regulated coal-fired power plants.
The longer we delay action on climate change, the costlier the consequences will be. Changing patterns of rainfall and mountain runoff will bring about more water shortages, crop failures, and record floods. Intense droughts, lower crop yields, destruction of forests through insect infestation and wild land fires, and frequent intense storms will cost more in lost lives and property.
Northern Virginia is leading the way on climate change; an example of a community committed to a better, cleaner environment. It is my hope that as more people across the country understand the link between the combustion of fossil fuels and climate change, the public will demand that Congress take action.
As the President noted, failure to act on climate change will affect our national security and the longevity and health of future generations. There is a moral and ethical obligation to responsibly address this growing threat. I look forward to partnering with the Safe Climate Caucus to bring attention to climate change and will do all I can to advance comprehensive climate change legislation.