Safe Climate Caucus: The Time to Act Is Now

One year ago, a small group of members of Congress gathered to announce the beginning of a new caucus -- the Safe Climate Caucus -- to end the conspiracy of silence in the U.S. House of Representatives about climate change.

Our 23 members came from all over the country and represented diverse constituencies. Yet we shared a common understanding: that climate change is real, that it poses a major threat to our future, and that Congress must stop denying the science and start acknowledging the need for action.

We made a pledge to speak on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives every day that the House was in session. And we kept it.

We spoke from the well of the House more than 140 times. We described new scientific studies about the tremendous risks of climate change. We called for action after catastrophic severe weather events. We lauded new clean energy initiatives in our districts as a way to promote economic growth while cutting pollution.

And we added new members from across the nation to our ranks, members who are also committed to speaking out about our moral obligation to protect the atmosphere for our children and grandchildren.

Yet in this past year, the dangers we face have grown. In May, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years. In the United States, we had seven severe weather events that each cost more than $1 billion. California is currently experiencing a devastating and intensifying drought, the worst in the state's history. Wildfires and floods keep getting bigger and more dangerous. Last year in Arizona, 19 firefighters lost their lives in a single fire. Floods in Colorado caused record damage.

Globally, the impacts were even worse. In November, a super typhoon -- perhaps the strongest ever recorded -- demolished entire cities in the Philippines. Australia experienced a record heat wave, fueling bush fires across the county. Record-breaking rains are causing widespread flooding in England.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama spoke about the need to address climate change. The president recognized that "climate change is a fact" and renewed his commitment to action. He promised to increase investment in clean energy technologies, to set higher fuel efficiency standards for trucks, and to establish the first limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

Last week, the members of the Safe Climate Caucus also renewed our commitment. We will continue to speak out on the House floor, because we want to be on record calling out congressional Republicans for ignoring this grave threat to our future. But we will also be employing other media to get our message out.

We will be publishing an op-ed from a member of the Safe Climate Caucus each week the House is in session. In these columns, we will highlight the latest science, the growth potential of clean energy, and the economic costs of inaction.

Our members will also post a series of weekly videos on climate change. In our first video, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) discussed the effects of climate change on minority communities, calling on us to act to ensure they have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink.

What is happening in Congress on climate change is an embarrassment, and one of our priorities will be to make sure the American people know about it. Earlier this month, every Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee responsible for determining our nation's energy and environmental policies, voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions from power plants. When a Democrat offered a simple amendment affirming that climate change is real, every Republican voted against it too.

This kind of reality denial would be rejected by even the Flat Earth Society. Yet the bill is likely to head to the House floor early next month.

This is my final year in Congress, and my commitment to fight for the causes I believe in has never been stronger. That's why I am honored to be part of the Safe Climate Caucus with members who share a commitment to halting dangerous climate change and making our nation the world leader in the new clean energy technologies of the future.

I will be a regular reader of our columns in The Huffington Post, and I hope you will too.

This post is the first of a series from the Safe Climate Caucus. The Caucus is comprised of members of the House of Representatives who have committed to speaking out about the dangers of climate change. For more information, visit the Safe Climate Caucus website and like the Safe Climate Caucus on Facebook.