Arctic sea ice, © Dr. Pablo Clemente-Colon

Congress: Think Ahead on Climate!

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO 

It’s no secret Congress is gridlocked on climate change. Climate change challenges the sources of energy that fueled the industrial revolution and our current standard of living. Shifting to new sources of energy is a big deal, with lots of special interests with high stakes in the outcome.

Jamie Rappaport Clark

Defenders’ president and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark

We have to change. And we can. Think of the amazing technological revolutions we have seen in just the last decade. Yes we are powering 21st century technology with 19th century energy. There simply has to be a better way.

It has become clear that we can’t wait for Congress to help transition to a low-carbon energy system. In 2012, we experienced the most expensive storm on record, record heat waves, record wildfires and record lows in Arctic sea ice. Our communities and the natural systems we value and depend on are feeling these impacts now.

Our lawmakers finally took an excellent step in the right direction over the winter. When Congress funded emergency recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy, it put in provisions to encourage rebuilding with climate change adaptation in mind and preparing for future storms and weather events made more likely by our planet heating up. Now Congress needs to build on that foundation and get ahead of the curve, enacting laws to make our communities, wildlife and natural areas more resilient to the changes to come.

The Obama administration is trying to move forward, as exemplified by the recent release of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. That strategy now needs to be implemented, and Congress needs to incorporate climate risks throughout federal decision making to mitigate those risks and prepare for future impacts. This will save lives, livelihoods and dollars.

Hopefully, our political leaders have a growing awareness of extreme weather and the formidable threat it poses both to our communities and our natural resources. It’s time for them to focus on the future and put people, homes and habitat ahead of 19th century interests.

Originally published in the National Journal, in response to “What’s Holding Back Energy & Climate Policy?”