Don’t be fooled by corporate disinformation. They want to block climate change legislation | Opinion

By 2075, warming ocean temperatures will cost us $21.5 billion a year in hurricane response and recovery in Florida alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
By 2075, warming ocean temperatures will cost us $21.5 billion a year in hurricane response and recovery in Florida alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Getty Images

As Floridians, we know all too well the havoc severe hurricane seasons can inflict on our coastal communities. Every year, tragically, homes, businesses and lives are upturned, ruined or lost.


Advances in attribution science can now demonstrate that man-made climate change has contributed to the increased severity and frequency of these storms — and they are only going to get worse. The costs associated with these more ferocious, climate-cooked storms are enormous.

The federal government spends $15.4 billion a year on hurricane response and recovery in Florida. Because of warming ocean temperatures, that number will increase to $21.5 billion by 2075, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Dealing with the storm aftermath is not the only problem. Preparing our communities for severe weather and other impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, will be just as costly and felt at every level of government.

The costs confronting South Florida alone are staggering. Miami Beach will invest $650 million to raise its roads and install water pumps to help protect its residents, and Delray Beach determined this year that it will need $378 million to deal with rising waters.

Climate change is affecting our families in countless other ways. Coral reefs are disappearing, red tides are choking off sea life and coastal businesses. Over time, our monthly utility bills will climb. Real estate values in Florida are expected to take a big hit. Climate change will continue to be a strain on every aspect of our lives, from our pocketbooks to the fate of our children’s futures.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we only have 11 years to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Time is running out to avoid a catastrophe.

The most profitable industry on planet Earth could have helped prevent this crisis decades ago. Instead, it decided to grow its profits by pumping more greenhouse gases into the air.

As early as the 1960s, Exxon and other industry giants knew their products were causing climate change. By 1982, they were calling the effects “potentially catastrophic.”

The oil majors had every opportunity to do the right thing: warn the public and lead the way to a clean energy future. Instead, they chose to spend millions on a massive disinformation campaign that duped the public, their shareholders, the media and lawmakers. They did this in part by funneling vast sums of corporate money to extremist, anti-science organizations and so-called think tanks. They paid for research that produced conclusions favorable to their cause.

Now we’re all in a costly race to prevent further damage.

Preparing our communities to deal with climate change is no small task. This year, the Center for Climate Integrity and Resilient Analytics released a report that estimates it will cost Florida $75.9 billion dollars just for the short-term defenses needed to protect against rising seas.

To put that in perspective, the entire 2019-2020 Florida state budget is $91.1 billion. My South Florida district alone will need to spend an estimated $620.5 million. Where is this money going to come from?

Taxpayers cannot — and should not — bear this burden alone. Those responsible for contributing to the crisis should pay their fair share so taxpayers aren’t left with this astronomical bill.

I chair the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, and the brutal reality faced by the armed forces is that climate change will drive up national defense and installation costs, as droughts, wildfires, flooding and humanitarian missions inevitably continue to increase. Our budgets are already feeling these impacts.

Small solutions won’t cut it this time. We owe it to our communities, families and future generations to confront the climate crisis head-on. That starts with getting to the root of the problem and holding ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies accountable for the damage they knowingly caused.

We owe our children a planet they can enjoy and on which they can thrive. And Congress owes it to our constituents to seriously address the causes and consequences of climate change that are already costing lives and resources. The time for serious action was yesterday.

This week, Congress will shine a spotlight on the disinformation campaign to stymie climate-change legislation. When the Committee on Oversight and Reform subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties holds hearings on this vital issue Wednesday, deception and denial will give way to truth and accountability. As a member of the Oversight Committee, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to bring the truth to light.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents Florida’s 23rd congressional district.