By Laura Barron-Lopez - 08/01/14 01:17 PM EDT
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) stressed the need to incorporate climate change risks into federal budget costs in a memo to Senate Democrats on Friday.
Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, held a hearing this week on the impact climate change could have on budget expenses for U.S. infrastructure, national security and agriculture.
"In Congress, we have an obligation to address the budgetary costs and economic risks brought on by climate change and live up to our responsibility to leave behind both a strong and stable fiscal foundation, as well as a safe and healthy environment, for our children and grandchildren," Murray said in the memo.
The battle over climate change and the administration's new rules, which mandate states cut carbon dioxide form existing power plants 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, reached fever pitch this week.
Coinciding with the Senate's hearing on budget costs of climate impacts, the White House Council of Economic advisers released a report on the ramifications of delaying action. The report estimated that delaying policies to help mitigate climate impacts could end up costing the U.S. $150 billion per year.
"The longer we wait, the bigger these challenges will be — and the effects are becoming clearer in certain areas of the budget," Murray said in the memo.
Murray focused on four ways warming temperatures, rising sea levels, more extreme natural disasters, wildfires and drought would "worsen the fiscal outlook."
The federal government has spent three times more on disaster relief in the past decade, Murray said, than the previous one.
Hotter temperatures, and flooding could wash out roads, and add extra stress on transportation and water infrastructure, the memo states.
Additionally, the memo points to testimony from military experts, which states climate change will spur instability and conflict across the globe, and threaten military installations and bases.
Lastly, Murray focuses on agriculture. Heat waves will reduce annual crop yields and result in more livestock deaths, the memo states.
The shift to budget costs of climate inaction signals an attempt by Democrats to flip the script on an often used point by the opposition.
Republicans argue that acting on climate change now would hurt the U.S. economy, kill jobs and drive up energy prices.
They also say the U.S. should not take the lead if other emerging economies like China are continuing to invest in coal-fired power plants.