Climate change is having specific, demonstrable, negative impacts on human life. Yesterday’s choice by the U.S. Senate to make poor families pay for the cost of climate disasters is just one example.
President Barack Obama isn’t even trying to get comprehensive legislation passed to deal with the growing climate crisis. Republicans in the House of Representatives are almost all opposed to significant climate legislation. So, what can be done?
Creating smaller bills to deal with specific problems caused by climate change is one tactic that might work. It’s something that U.S. Representative Lois Capps is trying. Capps has introduced two modest pieces of climate legislation this year.
The Coastal State Climate Change Planning Act, H. R. 764, would create a federal entity within the Department of Commerce to plan for adaptations to climate change among coastal communities in the United States. It’s an important area of focus, given that one of the effects of climate change is rising sea levels.
To date, however, only 21 Democrats in the House of Representatives have signed on as supporters of the Coastal State Climate Change Planning Act. These cosponsors are:
Earl Blumenauer (Democrat-OR, District 3)
Julia Brownley (Democrat-CA, District 26)
Donna Christensen (Democrat-VI, District 0)
Judy Chu (Democrat-CA, District 27)
Sam Farr (Democrat-CA, District 20)
Janice Hahn (Democrat-CA, District 44)
Alcee Hastings (Democrat-FL, District 20)
Rush Holt (Democrat-NJ, District 12)
Michael Honda (Democrat-CA, District 17)
Jared Huffman (Democrat-CA, District 2)
Zoe Lofgren (Democrat-CA, District 19)
Carolyn McCarthy (Democrat-NY, District 4)
James Moran (Democrat-VA, District 8)
Scott Peters (Democrat-CA, District 52)
Pedro Pierluisi (Democrat-PR, District 0)
Chellie Pingree (Democrat-ME, District 1)
Charles Rangel (Democrat-NY, District 13)
Gregorio Sablan (Democrat-MP, District 0)
Adam Schiff (Democrat-CA, District 28)
Carol Shea-Porter (Democrat-NH, District 1)
Frederica Wilson (Democrat-FL, District 24)
There are even fewer cosponsors for the most recent small-scale climate legislation introduced by Representative Capps. Six days ago, Capps introduced H.R. 2023, the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act. This bill, if passed into law, would direct the Secretary of Health and Human services to create a plan for helping medical professionals respond to health care problems increased by climate change. Yesterday, Caps spoke to the need for this legislation, explaining, “Increasingly, severe and frequent weather events and heat waves not only threaten people’s health and safety but also jeopardize our food crop production and the availability of clean drinking water. Foodborne illnesses, asthma, and cardiovascular disease are expected to worsen in a changing climate. Despite these anticipated impacts, however, most American health professionals do not have the tools they need to prepare for the changing needs of their patients, and climate change’s threats to human health will only escalate with every day that we fail to take action.”
The majority of Democrats in Congress are choosing to ignore climate change. They use the Republicans as an excuse, saying that big climate bills can’t get passed. However, they’re not even to advance smaller climate bills to deal with specific problems caused by the climate shifts we’re experiencing.
When only a small number of Democratic politicians are willing to accept responsibility for dealing with the most fundamental environmental problem of our time, the Democratic Party cannot seriously claim the allegiance of environmental activists. On environmental issues, by and large, the Democrats have become part of the problem.