Creating a bipartisan climate to discuss climate change in Congress

As a Republican and a Democrat representing South Florida in Congress, the alarming findings on the acceleration of sea level rise recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences hit close to home. In South Florida, king tides regularly flood low-lying communities like Miami Beach and Key West, and the saltwater creep threatens the freshwater supplied by the Everglades to over seven million Americans. Yet according to this research, coastal communities like ours are struggling to cope with what are only the first few inches of sea level rise that will reach between 1.7 and four feet by 2100. 

Across the country, the challenges posed by warming temperatures, storm surge, and severe flooding represent mere previews of the consequences to come due to climate change. In New Jersey, the storm surge that accompanied a recent blizzard left shore towns flooded by icy waters. In Charleston, South Carolina, the number of flood days more than quadrupled in the last half a century. Even in Colorado, warmer winters and reduced snowfall has disrupted tourism and the ski industry. 

This research makes clear that the time to debate whether climate change threatens our economy and our security has long past.  It should also lend credence to our decision to establish the Climate Solutions Caucus ­ the first bipartisan task force in the House of Representatives devoted to addressing climate change. Already, Reps. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) have joined us as members, and we are hearing from other colleagues thirsty for a bipartisan dialogue on climate change. 

We know that the rigid partisan climate in the House and Senate has prevented Congress from tackling an array of issues in recent years. But the idea that the elected representatives of the American people cannot come together to even discuss climate change while the governments of nearly 200 countries can, as we recently saw in Paris last year, demonstrates the frustration of this stalemate.

The absence of congressional leadership has led President Obama to take executive regulatory actions that not only intensify partisanship but may not prevail in court. It’s also left local governments and the private sector with the immeasurable burden of figuring out how to protect property and infrastructure from seas that are rising faster than they have in more than 3,000 years. 

The dangers posed by climate change will touch Americans of all political persuasions. We cannot let partisan politics relegate the legislative branch of the United States to the sidelines as communities, local governments, and private industry grapples with an increasingly existential threat. 

In the coming weeks, the Climate Solutions Caucus will arrange briefings and discussions with local officials and private sector leaders from across the political spectrum who recognize the need for action. Together, we hope to arrive at economically viable, market-driven approaches to reducing carbon emissions that can efficiently and effectively address this threat.

While Congress in the past has failed to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, the right solutions are still out there. They have to be. Before we were Republicans or Democrats in Congress, we were parents. And while we may not live to see the worst of the consequences of unchecked carbon pollution, we know that our children and our grandchildren someday will. The Climate Solutions Caucus may be just a small step, but it’s a step worth taking if we have any hope of restoring dialogue and addressing climate change in a bipartisan way.

Deutch represents Florida’s 21st Congressional District and has served in the House since 2010. He sits on the Ethics; the Foreign Affairs; and the Judiciary committees. Curbelo has represented Florida’s 26th Congressional District since 2015. He sits on the Education and the Workforce; the Small Business; and the Transportation committees.