Society, throughout history, has embraced "truths" later revealed to be false: The Earth is flat, the Sun revolves around the Earth and, now, climate change is a hoax. Strong evidence -- including the fact that the Arctic ice melt has reached the lowest point in history -- shows that climate change is real. Yet Republican members of Congress still refuse to take meaningful steps to address what can be done to protect our planet from this growing threat.
The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest on record since record-keeping began in 1895. June, July and August produced the third-hottest summer ever recorded. According to CNN, "the nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature for the year," a full degree higher than in 2006, which, until now, had the hottest first eight months of any year.
We are experiencing the effects of these ever-more-extreme conditions daily. This summer, 40 out of 50 states had drought-designated counties with conditions severe enough to be eligible for federal aid. Almost two-thirds of the nation experienced moderate to severe drought conditions, a 30 percent increase from last year, when one-third of the country witnessed such conditions. Even more staggering, 80 percent of our agricultural land has been affected by drought, which means higher food prices at a time when Americans are already under financial strain.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed increasing numbers of wildfires, violent hurricanes and tornadoes, and unprecedented drought. Americans understand what's happening, and they want us to do something about it. "A large and growing majority of Americans," at 74 percent, say "global warming is affecting weather in the United States", according to an October report by George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication study. A second report from the same center shows that 72 percent of Americans believe that developing clean energies should be a national priority.
The public is on our side here. It's a wonder to me why my Republican colleagues in Congress continue to deny the reality of a warming planet and the role of humans in causing it. Maybe they don't see the opportunities that come with addressing the problem head-on.
We could have a new dawn for American innovation and technology. But Republican leaders would prefer instead to bury their heads deep in the sand, allowing other countries, like the Netherlands, to lead the way on green technologies and actionable solutions -- while America watches from the sidelines.
Americans want Congress, as policymakers, to take action. This is what we do.
We are a nation that stands up to our challenges and faces our problems, finding creative solutions and turning problems into opportunities. We can do that now. By developing green technologies and renewable energy, we are investing in our future, a tradition that has proven successful for America.
America's wind energy program, for example, had a banner year in 2011. Bolstered by tax credits, which Republicans want to rescind, it brought America into the number two spot for fastest-growing wind industry in the world after China.
Investing in new frontiers and technologies would greatly benefit America -- irrespective of climate change predictions. Renewable energy is the future. It has the potential to create jobs, marketplace demand and a thriving industry. In addition, the United States can be a global leader, blazing a path for others to follow. We would be remiss not to embrace the challenge.
Climate change is not a hoax, a myth or a tool for political leverage. We can't ignore the evidence. It is the greatest threat to our future, our children's future and the planet's future.
It is also a unique invitation for innovation and achievement. Renewable energy is the way of the future -- whether or not we are the ones leading the charge. We must not allow America to get left behind.
Rep Michael Honda (D-CA) represents Silicon Valley and serves on the House Budget and Appropriations Committees.
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