A Tragic But Auspicious Moment For Climate Action

NOAA captured this image of historic Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6 as it engulfed  Barbuda, apparently on its way to the U.S. mai
NOAA captured this image of historic Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6 as it engulfed Barbuda, apparently on its way to the U.S. mainland. Because warm water gives hurricanes added power, oceans affected by global warming are said to be contributing to more severe storms.

Congress is back at work on a formidable agenda of pressing issues. But with the West on fire, the Gulf Coast under water and Floridians bracing for one of the most powerful hurricanes on record, there is one issue in particular that House and Senate leaders should add to their immediate-action list.

Starting with the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House – a group of more than 50 Republicans and Democrats formed to “address the impacts, causes and challenges of our changing climate” ― a bipartisan coalition should stop Donald Trump from destroying the federal government’s ability to understand, deal with and help the American people better prepare for the disastrous impacts of global climate change.

All Congress need do is pass a joint resolution that directs Trump to restore the climate policies and programs he has revoked and to spare those he hasn’t gotten around to yet. To have the force of law, a joint esolution must be signed by the president. However unlikely that is, a resolution would force Trump to confront the conflict between his ill-informed climate denial and the reality of what’s happening to the American people right now.

Because Congress is so busy, I have drafted this resolution to get things started:

Joint Resolution

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that in the interest of protecting the lives and property of the American people, in order to manage federal expenditures, and in consideration of the American people’s overwhelming support for federal leadership to manage the risks of global climate change, Congress directs the president of the United States to take the following immediate actions:

1. Officially acknowledge the risk that global climate change may be adversely impacting the United States, its states, localities and citizens, and undertake such actions as are necessary to mitigate the risk;

2. Renew the charter of the advisory panel for the quadrennial National Climate Assessment. Request that the panel review the Administration’s Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and report to the president and Congress on the likely impacts of the Unified Agenda on climate-related risks in the United States;

3. Provide sufficient staffing, support and resources for the Global Change Research Program to fully execute its mission as defined by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, including the production of the quadrennial National Climate Assessment with an emphasis on current and prospective risks to U.S. regions, communities, industries, the economy and government spending;

4. Restore other science advisory boards and programs whose work helps the federal government and the American people anticipate and prepare for extreme weather events;

5. Restore the January 30, 2015, executive order titled “Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard” to reestablish a science-based flood resilience and risk reduction standard for federally funded projects;

6. Include the social cost of carbon in evaluating the impacts of proposed regulations, programs and actions subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act;

7. Provide sufficient staffing, resources and budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Sciences Program to study and monitor weather patterns in the United States, including those that may be related to global climate change;

8. Notify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that the United States will remain an active and constructive party to the Paris climate agreement and will strive to meet the goals and objectives of the United States’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution as submitted to the UN on March 31, 2015, with the understanding that the methods for achieving those targets may be amended;

9. To participate fully and effectively in the UNFCCC and the Paris climate agreement, re-establish the position of the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State and provide it with sufficient staff and budget to restore and sustain U.S. leadership in international climate risk mitigation.

10. Maintain the responsibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct and report to the UNFCCC its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and to maintain EPA’s collection of greenhouse gas emissions data from facilities and suppliers of certain fossil fuels and industrial gases through the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

11. Manage all relevant activities of the executive branch to be consistent with the following verbatim findings and directions of past Congresses as reflected in the nation’s laws:

  • There is growing evidence of international environmental problems, such as global warming, ocean pollution, and declines in species diversity, and that these problems pose serious threats to human health and the environment on a global scale. (20 U.S.C.A. § 5501)
  • Weather and climate change affect food production, energy use, land use, water resources and other factors vital to national security and human welfare. (15 U.S.C.A § 2901)
  • An ability to anticipate natural and man-induced changes in climate would contribute to the soundness of policy decisions in the public and private sectors. (Ibid.)
  • It is the goal of the United States in carrying out energy supply and energy conservation research and development to reduce the air, water, and other environmental impacts (including emissions of greenhouse gases) of energy production, distribution, transportation, and utilization, through the development of an environmentally sustainable energy system. (42 U.S.C.A. § 13401)
  • Important research into the problem of climate change is now being conducted by various United States Government and international agencies, and the continuation and intensification of those efforts will be crucial to the development of an effective United States response. (15 U.S.C.A. § 2901 Note)
  • The global nature of this problem will require vigorous efforts to achieve international cooperation aimed at minimizing and responding to adverse climate change; such international cooperation will be greatly enhanced by United States leadership. (Ibid.)
  • The United States, as a world leader in environmental and Earth sciences, should help provide leadership in developing and implementing an international global change research program. (15 U.S.C.A. § 2951)
  • The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall establish a Global Climate Change Response Fund to act as a mechanism for United States contributions to assist global efforts in mitigating and adapting to global climate change. (42 U.S.C.A. § 13388)

Congress must deal with current weather-related disasters by finding the resources necessary to help victims recover. At the same time, it should confront the increasingly likely probability that future disasters will be even more severe than those we are witnessing today.