York Dispatch: U.S.: Land of opportunity or vulnerability?

As I write this, approximately 190 million Americans are under a heat watch, advisory or warning as a heat wave grips the East Coast and the Midwest states. This comes just as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last month was the hottest June on record globally.

According to NOAA: “The average global temperature in June was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees, making it the hottest June in the 140-year record, according scientists to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Nine of the 10 hottest Junes have occurred since 2010. Last month also was the 43rd consecutive June and 414th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.”

Climate scientists are already predicting this month will continue to get hotter and that July could very well be the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.

NOAA also tracks weather disasters and, to date there have been six weather disasters in the U.S., each costing over a billion dollars in damages. These events included two floods and four severe storms. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 15 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

At the end of June, Europe experienced the greatest June heat wave in European history. According to Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground, “A rapid-response climate change attribution study done on the heat wave by scientists with the World Weather Attribution website found that for France, human-caused climate change made the heat wave at least five times more likely to occur, with observations indicating that climate change might have made the heat wave more than 100 times more likely to occur.”

All 7.5 billion inhabitants of earth have been under a heat advisory for some time; climate scientists have been warning us for decades the planet is warming, and is causing extreme weather events to become more frequent and more extreme. Just weeks ago, the United Nations issued a warning that climate-crisis disasters are happening at the rate of one per week, and earlier this year Morgan Stanley found climate-related disasters cost the globe $650 billion over the past three years, with North America shouldering most of the burden ($415 billion).

Climate change is costing us dearly in dollars and lives, and the damages will continue to mount. The Trump Administration is fighting climate science and policies to deal with climate change enacted during the previous administration rather than fighting climate change itself. The Trump Administration’s refusal to face the problem is harming the Republican Party.

Last month, prominent GOP pollster Frank Luntz of Luntz Global Partners circulated a memo to Republican congressional offices warning that 58 percent of Americans, as well as 58 percent of GOP voters under the age of 40, are more concerned about climate change than they were just one year ago. The poll also noted that 69 percent of GOP voters are concerned that the party’s stance on climate change is “hurting itself with younger votes.”

Luntz called climate change a GOP vulnerability as well as an opportunity. With all the damages mounting and little being done to address the problem, the U.S. is looking more like the Land of Vulnerability rather than the Land of Opportunity.

Republicans have an opportunity to address the problem with a market-based bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 763, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. When passed by Congress, the act will reduce emissions by 40% in the first 12 years by putting a price on carbon pollution. The revenue collected will be returned to Americans equally, putting money in people’s pockets to spend as they see fit. It will create 2.1 million new jobs, thanks to economic growth in local communities. It will clean up our air and reduce the amount of lives being lost to respiratory illness.

The act already has bipartisan support in the House and currently has 58 cosponsors, although there are no Republicans from Pennsylvania yet listed as cosponsors.  Pennsylvania Democratic Reps. Susan Wild, Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean and Matt Cartwright are cosponsors of the act to date. Thank you to these representatives for supporting this economic plan that will create opportunities for many Americans while reducing our vulnerability to climate change.

I hope Reps. Lloyd Smucker and Scott Perry will also see the opportunity to put money into Americans’ pockets, reduce carbon pollution, and improve the Republican party’s image with young voters who care about solving the climate crisis.

— Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional co-coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby and lives in Lancaster.