The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations task force, released a report last week that was seven years in the making. The report drew upon unequivocal evidence of substantial climate related impacts that are extremely likely to be perpetuated by human activity.
The IPCC reported with "high confidence" that several developments pose key risks to societies all around the globe. Sea levels are rising to levels that threaten coastal and island communities due to storm surges and flooding.
The report drew attention to oceans that are becoming more acidic as they absorb carbon emissions from cars, power plants, and unsustainable agriculture. This acidification is threatening fisheries, coral reefs, and other marine ecosystems.
The IPCC states with "very high confidence" that droughts, heat waves, and other extreme weather that result from climate change pose major threats to economic growth and poverty reduction and further erode food security, prolonging violent conflict worldwide.
New data indicate that despite such pressing concerns, we emitted more carbon in 2013 than in any previous year. In the face of this overwhelming evidence, congressional Republican leadership's refusal to act is truly astounding.
I believe that climate change represents one of the greatest threats to our national security and our planet. Increasing CO2 levels in our atmosphere, if allowed to continue unchecked, carry dire consequences for the future of our health and economy. Rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and increasing drought are all examples of the consequences of failing to take action to address this threat.
I joined the Safe Climate Caucus because I believe in leaving a safer planet for future generations. Stewardship of our environment, of the air that we breathe and of the water that we drink, is essential to that commitment. I had hoped all of Congress would recognize that it is imperative for our health, economy, and national security that we address the effects of climate change before they get even worse.
When I came to Congress last year, I expected to be addressing the nation's largest problems and working with my colleagues to find solutions. Instead, I found gridlock and dysfunction.
Instead of considering legislation that would incentivize industry to reduce emissions and seek clean and sustainable energy solutions, The House GOP has been focused on rolling back the last 40 years of environmental regulation in order to increase the already record-setting profits of the oil and gas industry. It seems like every week we are considering bills that would make it harder to limit the amount of carbon we are dumping into our atmosphere, and prevent implementation of clean technologies. The voters who sent us here deserve better.
Although I am disappointed in Congress' failure to act, I am proud of the efforts by Wisconsin's local representatives to take the lead on combatting climate change. In my home state of Wisconsin, we have seen a number of these initiatives.
According to a report by Environment Wisconsin, responsible energy policies, such as Wisconsin's energy efficiency requirements, have significantly cut carbon emissions. The report, Moving America Forward, showed that Wisconsin's energy efficiency requirements reduced carbon pollution by at least 4 million metric tons in 2012. That is comparable to the annual emissions from more than 850,000 cars. Not only does that keep our air cleaner, it saves us money.
Considering the progress we have already made and the serious nature of the threat we face, I'm calling on Republican leadership to work with Democrats in the Safe Climate Caucus to draft serious legislation that deals with climate change. At a time when Americans have grown tired of partisan bickering in Washington, let's come together to pass common sense legislation that helps us both fuel the 21st century economy and protects the environment for generations to come.
I came to Congress to get something done, and so did my colleagues in the Safe Climate Caucus. It's past time for House Republicans to do the same.
This post is part of a series from the Safe Climate Caucus. The Caucus is comprised of 38 members of the House of Representatives who have committed to ending the conspiracy of silence in Congress about the dangers of climate change. For more information, visit the Safe Climate Caucus website and like the Safe Climate Caucus on Facebook.
This post contains an update from the original post on 04/03/2014.
Follow Rep. Mark Pocan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/repmarkpocan