The debate over climate change has played a prominent role in public and political spheres since the late 1980s when droughts and the work of the National Research Council drew attention to abnormally hot weather occurring all over the world. Since then, countless studies have been conducted to discern the cause and effects of climate change. These studies have received intense discussion in scientific, political, and neighborhood communities.
Unfortunately, the debate has reached a new, fevered pitch in the current Congress before the Science, Space and Technology Committee, on which I serve. The argument put forth by many of my Republican colleagues goes something like this: there is no human element in climate change, scientific research is promoting wrongfully this interpretation, and the research misleads the American people. These conclusions have been roundly disputed by the recognized experts in climate science around the world.
Climate change is simply the long-term average of weather and not a term that lends itself to ongoing political posturing. In terms of scientific evidence, the change in the world’s climate over the past 40 years is indisputable. Global temperatures and sea levels are rising, global snowpack is decreasing, Arctic sea ice and land ice are decreasing – these are consistent trends over the past 40 years when considered together indicate clearly a warming climate. Europe is not delaying; China is not delaying. The rest of the world is looking at the same science and proceeding with deliberate speed on economic and energy policies that reflect the urgency of climate change. For lawmakers to continue down this track of disputing recognized scientific research only delays the time to deal effectively with the clear impacts.
As economies become more interwoven, so will our reliance on earth science and global technologies to ensure emergency preparedness, respond to natural disasters, and prepare our economy for the 21st Century. We have an obligation to balance our budget for future generations, but that obligation must be met responsibly. Defunding necessary technology and undercutting scientific research leaves us far short of “understanding our own nature.” That is too high a price.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.