Hit By Climate, Disaster Victims Call for Congressional Action (Op-Ed)
| At a Congressional Safe Climate Caucus forum, witnesses tell members of Congress how climate changes are already having a disastrous impact. Credit: Rocky Kistner, NRDC
As the world’s climate scientists increasingly sound the alarm about the growing threats of climate change, more and more people hard-hit by the rising tide of dangerous extreme weather events are demanding that Congress take action.
Those voices were loud and clear when the Congressional Safe Climate Caucus held a forum on climate change Sept. 17, 2013, on Capitol Hill, as many told heart-wrenching stories about the punishing impacts of climate change hitting their communities across the United States.
Their stories were powerful and diverse, telling tales of crop-crippling drought in farms across the midwest, ravaging fires in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the west, and record-setting hurricanes and flooding along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. But all shared a common message: climate change is real and fueling more dangerous extreme weather events. They implored Congress to take action to cut carbon pollution and promote policies that will protect future generations from even greater climate threats predicted by scientists. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the Safe Climate Caucus, said these were voices that more Americans need to hear.
“Your experiences are proof that climate change does have consequences,” Rep. Waxman told the witnesses. “Congress needs to hear from you and have you explain how a rapidly changing climate can exact a tremendous toll on communities across the country. Remarkably, this is the first time that individuals like you have come before Congress to tell your stories. But it should not be the last time. Every member needs to hear from his or her constituents about the costs of inaction and the dangers of ignoring the science.”
“In Iowa we had nearly 800,000 acres of prevented planting because of flooding. And in many places around the state, they are looking at about a third of a crop of soybeans because of the drought. And some of these fields, unplanted because of flooding and burned up from drought are sitting right next to each other. Climate change is real, it’s happening, it’s going to get worse, and it’s already causing great harm to farms like mine. … I speak for a lot of American farmers when I say let’s stop wasting our time debating the existence of climate change. We need to use our time and money to find ways to protect the climate we depend on.”
“I always knew about climate change, but you do not really take it seriously until it happens to you. People need to understand that climate change is not a cliché, but a reality that is causing damage and destruction around the world and we need to change the way we live to prevent future damage to our country.”
Meanwhile, he says the devastating drought is killing the flora that sustains his honeybees and making it difficult for even the toughest bison to survive. Last year, the Texas rancher says he had only seven baby bison calves when normally he has 10 times that many; his honey crop plummeted from 75 barrels to two.
“In short we have a new man-made water crisis etched atop the man-made crisis of climate change that produced the crisis…we’re running on empty.”
“The Rim Fire illustrates the severity of fires that scientific experts anticipate will become more common as a result of climate change. Experts say this is just a foretaste of major fires to come, across the United States, as altered forest ecology due to hotter and dryer conditions result in larger, more destructive, and more intense fires.”
“Climate change is non-partisan, it’s not based race, it’s not based on religious affiliation political party or sexual orientation, it is a cause that all human beings must be involved in now. It would be a shameful commentary on all of our history if we didn’t do anything if we were in a position to do something. It’s time now that the whole beloved community get involved in climate change so the human beings and generations [ahead of] us have a safer place to live in.”