Climate change peril must be addressed forthrightly

Stephen F. LynchStephen F. Lynch

As residents of the city of Boston, we share an appreciation for the city’s close proximity to the water. From enjoying the Tall Ships Parade of Sail in Boston Harbor to seeing young people learn how to sail and kayak near UMass Boston and at Camp Harbor View, people of all ages enjoy the benefits of living in a state with more than 1,500 miles of coastline. Living in a coastal community also comes with increasing challenges as the threat of sea level rise, temperature increases, and more frequent extreme storms raise questions about how to build resilience in local communities to ensure that future generations can enjoy Boston’s coastal landscape.

As the lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on National Security, I can tell you that climate change has become a bipartisan national security priority. From outgoing Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper and current Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, national security officials have widely recognized the risk that climate change poses to human security, both in the United States and abroad. A comprehensive, coordinated strategy among stakeholders at all levels is critical if the United States is serious about strengthening our national security and mitigating risks posed by the impacts of climate change.

As the City of Boston’s 2016 Climate Ready Report noted, “in the late century, Dorchester exposure will change significantly, with large areas exposed to high-probability flood events.” In addition, the report highlighted that already “a significant portion of the South Boston Waterfront is exposed to high probability coastal storms … [and] exposure will increase significantly over the course of the century.”

Without action, the impacts of severe storms and flooding would be devastating.

We are lucky here in Massachusetts to have elected officials who take the risks facing Massachusetts seriously. From Governor Baker’s executive order establishing an integrated climate change strategy for the commonwealth to Mayor Walsh’s Climate Ready Boston initiative evaluating the city’s vulnerabilities and establishing comprehensive action steps, as well as local mayors, including Mayor Koch, and town councils in cities and towns across the 8th Congressional District working hard to improve resilience infrastructure, I am proud to have partners who are engaged and committed to protecting the future of Massachusetts and its residents.

In the aftermath of President Trump’s misguided decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, these efforts at the state and local level are even more important to ensure that we demonstrate to the world that Massachusetts is committed to shifting the sustainability curve over the next century, buying time for future generations to undo the damage sustained during previous generations. Congress must also step up and swiftly take action to clearly demonstrate that the president’s recent abdication of leadership is unacceptable and risks irreparable damage to future generations.

That is why I introduced H.R. 2908, the Climate Change National Security Strategy Act, which would ensure that the federal government appropriately considers climate change in the development of national security strategies and policies. The legislation restores the core directives on national security and climate change included in President Obama’s September 2016 memorandum, which established a “Climate and National Security Working Group” made up of intelligence, defense, security, and other agency officials authorized to examine and develop an action plan on climate change.

In addition to ensuring that climate change is a national security priority, I am also strongly advocating, as a member of the Financial Services Committee, for the inclusion of robust mitigation funding in the legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program. Neighborhoods like South Boston and Dorchester, as well as towns like Scituate, Hull, Weymouth, and Cohasset, and the city of Quincy, among others on the coastline, deserve a strong partner at the federal level helping to strengthen shoreline protections in the wake of the likely increase in frequency and intensity of so-called 100-year storms.

While there may be obstructionists in Washington, D.C., we cannot stand by while our local communities face the devastating impacts of severe weather and rising sea levels. We also need to go around the obstructionists and do everything necessary to mitigate the man-made impacts on our planet. I will continue to work closely with Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, Mayor Koch, and other local elected officials in the 8th Congressional District to identify additional investments we can make in our area to promote resilience. And I will advocate at the federal level, alongside my colleagues from the Massachusetts delegation, for a strategic, nationwide approach to strengthen America’s ability to adequately respond to the increasing challenges of climate change.

Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston) represents the 8th Congressional District of Massachusetts. He is the ranking member on the National Security Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and also serves on the Financial Services Committee.