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Saturday, November 01, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 1/19/2013

Earth to Congress

Forty-nine U.S. House Republicans acted responsibly this week when they joined 192 Democrats to pass a $50.7 billion aid bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy. So why can’t they do the same with climate legislation?

Curbing greenhouse gases won’t make hurricanes like Sandy go away. But they’ll likely happen with greater frequency and intensity if more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is warming the oceans and throwing weather fronts out of whack. 

Having utilities charge a few more pennies a month on electric bills for improvements to power plants that would curb man-made global warming is more prudent — and conservative — than having Congress write out big checks after each disaster, especially when those checks will grow ever larger if nothing is done. 

Pollution controls have other benefits, such as lower public health costs to battle cancer, asthma, and heart attacks. They spur innovation, which creates jobs.

Scientists have not established a cause-and-effect relationship between climate change and tornadoes. But what about drought? Last year’s drought — the worst in 50 years — is expected to stick taxpayers with a record bill of $15.8 billion for crop insurance losses because of poor yields. That’s up nearly $6.5 billion from 2011’s costs.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut estimate the actual damage that Sandy did to their states at $82 billion. The $50.7 billion package approved by the House follows $10 billion of emergency aid Congress approved earlier.

Those figures, along with the projected cost of drought-related crop losses, amount to about one-eighth of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, which Congress passed in response to the Wall Street crisis of 2008. That sum doesn’t includes other climate-related costs to America last year.

Concern about climate change isn’t tree-hugging. The military sees it as a threat to national security. The insurance industry tracks it to adjust policies in areas that are prone to flooding.

The dollars that Congress is allocating for disaster argue for a more proactive approach. Lawmakers of both parties need to get serious — finally — about climate change.



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