Thursday, February 14, 2013

We Can't Afford Inaction.

It's the greatest global security threat of our time. It's already being felt across the country. And it's now the federal government's newest fiscal challenge?

No really, it is.

The Government Accountability Office delivered that warning in its update of the greatest threats the government faces in carrying out federal programs. Generally the GAO identifies things like flaws in the defense contracting process and fraud in health care programs.

This year's update of the High-Risk Series report included the increasingly obvious and growing external threat of climate change -- in spite of the continued insistence from many members of Congress that fears over global warming are overblown.

"Limiting the federal government's fiscal exposure to climate change is one of the new areas we have on the list," Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the head of the GAO, told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference. "The federal government is terribly exposed to this change," he added, noting that the government owns hundreds of thousands of buildings, operates defense installations, picks up the tab to help local governments with disasters, and runs crop and flood insurance programs.

"The government doesn't budget for disaster," Dodaro said, "and the record number of disasters hit above 90 in 2012."

Dodaro was aware that some in Congress might not like his agency's embrace of climate change, but he argued that the facts justified it.

"We believe that the information coming from the National Academy of Sciences and from the federal government's own global change research program ... has been very clear on the science underpinning this area," Dodaro said.

This just confirms something we've already known for some time. Yes, climate change is indeed THE crisis of our time. And we will pay dearly if we fail to solve this crisis soon. That's one reason why President Obama urged action on climate change in his State of the Union Address.

In the past two years, the federal government has spent $188 billion on disaster relief. That's largely dye to the record number of recent natural disasters. Again, we're already starting to see the real effects of climate change.

Perhaps that's why we see such a broad consensus among the American people for action on climate change. According to the new Benenson national poll (the same pollster used by Obama's campaign last year, FYI) commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters, 65% of American voters demand action on climate change. So why shouldn't Congress finally take action?

Yesterday, we noted new legislation from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to implement a carbon tax, along with a comprehensive plan to take on climate change. Earlier today, ThinkProgress explained why this legislation is so crucial.

Taken together, the Climate Protection Act and Sustainable Energy Act are a comprehensive climate bill, led by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Most important, the package puts a price on carbon, which will make polluters pay for the damage they inflict on all of us while encouraging the transition to cleaner fuels. This $20 fee for each ton of carbon dioxide pollution will reduce emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

These bills also bring in more than $1 trillion in new revenue over the next decade. The success of any pollution reduction program depends on how new revenue is spent,and these bills spend the money smartly. Broadly speaking, the money goes to three places: consumer protection, clean energy infrastructure, and deficit reduction. Each of these is important.

A carbon fee is just like any other consumption tax in that it inordinately impacts low- and middle-income families. The Climate Protection Act and Sustainable Energy Act create a rebate program to make sure that these families are not harmed. This is modeled after Alaska’s oil dividend, and will ensure that pollution reduction is not a regressive tax.

Reducing dirty energy use is great, but we need to make sure that we replace it with clean energy to power our economy. This package funds the Weatherization Assistance Program, ARPA-E, the production tax credit and investment tax credit, manufacturing for clean energy technologies, worker training, and other programs that will be critical in transitioning to a clean energy future.

Finally, our nation’s budget deficit is a real problem. The Climate Protection Act and Sustainable Energy Act will reduce the debt by $300 billion over the next ten years.

So this bill addresses the greatest global security threat of our time, invests in critical job creation, and even reduces the federal budget deficit! Why is this "controversial" at all? That's a question to ask Nevada Republicans in Congress, like Dean Heller & Joe Heck.

Even a growing number of conservative Republicans are calling for a carbon tax and overall action on climate change. And states like Nevada stand to benefit immensely from further investment in renewable energy. So why not act already?

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