For instance, on the Jersey Shore, people are elevating their homes because they know sea levels will be about a foot higher by the time their new mortgages expire. In Florida and Virginia, climate change isn’t a partisan issue as much as it is an issue of people’s driveways flooding when the tide comes in.
Coastal flooding, in fact, is an area of rare agreement across the aisle. Many fiscal conservatives don’t want to see more money going to federal bailouts as seas rise. Many liberals want to see sustainable coastal development.
Republicans and Democrats also recently passed a drought bill that will help climate scientists empower water managers with information they need. When cow pastures and crops are at higher risk of drying up, reality trumps ideology.
Even Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., who has gone so far as to accuse climate scientists of criminal misconduct, has partnered with colleagues across the aisle to study so-called “black carbon,” which causes climate change and degrades public health in Africa, where the senator has deep ties.
So, yes, our national climate debate is broken. But it can be fixed.
First, we need to respect the science. Second, we need political leaders to debate if and how to respond, knowing that their ideas can be rooted in very different values. Finally, we need more media coverage that sees past the spin and illuminates the realities we all face.
Aaron Huertas is a science communications officer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Previously, he worked for the office of former Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J. Rachel Kriegsman is a program assistant in UCS’s Climate and Energy Program.