Safe Climate Caucus: It's Time to Protect Our Environment and Our Economy

All around the country, Americans are facing the effects of climate change every day. Our environment is changing - temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are more frequent.

As a nation, we also face a series of economic risks from the changing climate. A recent report from the Risky Business Project found that climate change affects our economy in three distinct ways: (1) rising sea levels and storm surge are damaging coastal properties and infrastructure; (2) climate changes are altering agricultural production and energy demand; and (3) higher temperatures are harming labor productivity and public health.

The members of the Safe Climate Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives have spent the last year and a half bringing attention to these issues in their districts throughout the country. Rep. Jared Huffman spoke about wildfires in California, which have caused millions of dollars in damage and have driven families from their homes. Rep. Peter Welch filmed a video on the economic cost of climate change on maple syrup producers in Vermont. Rep. Paul Tonko and Rep. Rush Holt spoke on the House floor about the rise of extreme weather events and the economic and environmental impacts of Hurricane Sandy on New York and New Jersey.

As hurricane season begins in the Southeast, coastal cities must face the realities of rising sea levels and increased damage from storm surge, both effects of climate change. In Florida, between $15 billion and $23 billion of existing property will likely be underwater by 2050, and the value of the property lost to rising sea levels could rise as high as $208 billion by the end of the century. By the end of the century, temperatures in the Southeast could reach 95 degrees or higher over 120 days each year, causing decreased labor productivity in the construction, transportation, utilities, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors. It will also increase heat-related mortality, possibly resulting in up to 36,000 additional deaths per year.

As the drought continues in California, we see worsening economic and environmental effects there too. A study from the University of California at Davis found the drought could cost the state around $1.7 billion. The study further found that the drought is costing California about 14,500 seasonal and full-time jobs this year. The drought may also affect national food prices because California produces nearly half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States.

Everywhere we look, we can see the consequences of inaction on climate change. So we have a choice. We can continue down this path of inaction, incurring high economic and environmental costs. We can let the Republican-led House of Representatives continue to undermine protection of the environment. We can ignore the strong public support for basic safeguards that ensure we have clean air and clean water.

Or we can take action. We can listen to the scientists. We can protect our environment and our economy by implementing smart policies to reduce carbon pollution and increase energy efficiency. We can follow President Obama's lead to confront the challenges of climate change. And we can lead the world in developing the new clean energy technologies of the future.

Let's make the right choice.

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.