As hurricanes pummel the southeast United States and the Caribbean, the western United States is on track to have the worst fire season in a decade. The process of healing and rebuilding communities affected by these destructive disasters will take years and tens of billions of dollars. As this process begins, it begs the question of how our federal government can help rebuild more resilient communities while many of our leaders refuse to recognize that these are not anomalies, but likely part of a larger trend caused by climate change.
There is an indisputable link between human-made climate change and stronger, more destructive storms and other extreme weather. Warm oceans are hurricane fuel, so the warmer our oceans become, the more quickly hurricanes are able to develop and become more powerful. On top of that, already rising sea levels make storm surges even more destructive, and warmer air can hold more water, which makes heavier rainfall more likely. At the same time, the weather extremes that climate change exacerbates hotter, drier weather in the western United States, increasing the likelihood and severity of forest fires.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many major news outlets did not mention climate change in their coverage at all. The head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, argued that there was no value in discussing the role climate change plays in these extreme weather events and implied that he was waiting for Congress to address the issue of climate change. At the same time, most Members of Congress from Texas refused to comment on climate change, or continue to express climate change denial. Despite Florida being one of the states most at risk from rising sea levels and other climate change impacts, Governor Rick Scott has refused to acknowledge the challenges posed by climate change, or the need to fund projects to make Florida more resilient. Members of Congress continue to propose and vote for bills like Senate Bill 1460, which gives handouts to fossil fuel companies rather than limiting emissions.
Why this stubborn resistance in face of overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, caused by human activities, and is already having devastating impacts on humans and the natural world? Powerful fossil fuel companies, some which have been aware of climate change and its anthropogenic causes a half a century ago, see meaningful action to limit greenhouse gas emissions as a threat to their profit margins. These companies pump millions into organizations created to spread skepticism about climate change – and into the campaigns of Members of Congress.
The only way that Congress will take action on climate change is if demands for action are so loud that even the Members of Congress paid to cover their ears no longer can ignore it. This week we are asking you to call you Members of Congress and demand meaningful climate action:
“My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a resident of ZIP code [ZIP CODE]. I am calling today because the hurricanes and forest fires impacting so many people’s lives across the United States are a clear sign that we need immediate action on climate change. The link between human activity, climate change and increased extreme weather are supported by a vast majority of scientists. We need to take action now to make our communities resilient in the face of a more chaotic climate, and drastically curb our greenhouse gas emissions. The last thing we need is more subsidies or regulatory loopholes for fossil fuel companies, like those in Senate Bill 1460. Instead, we need a dramatic shift to a clean energy future in a way that benefits all communities, like is proposed in the ‘Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act,’ House Bill 3671. Thank you for taking action to keep our climate livable for generations to come.”
Learn more about the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (OFF Act) here.
Photo by NASA/NOAA GOES Project