Climate change cannot be a partisan issue

Now more than ever, it is crucial that we acknowledge the reality that is the Earth’s changing climate. Without question, this is one of the major challenges of our time and directly threatens the communities of South Florida. If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely affect not only our families and neighbors, but the entire country.

To view climate change through partisan lenses only detracts from efforts to discover practical solutions. This debate should not devolve into a petty competition between Republicans and Democrats.

Instead, it should consist of a constructive dialogue focusing on the implementation of policies that encourage the growth and development of clean alternative energy sources that will complement traditional ones.

Rising sea levels and the erosion of our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that South Florida is at the frontline of climate change. Florida’s obvious vulnerability to these effects should be enough to spur interest in the numerous benefits offered by increased investment in clean energy.

For one, expanding the use of clean energy will reduce air pollution, thus improving public health. The accelerated growth of clean energy also galvanizes American innovation to create employment opportunities, positively affecting our communities by giving them the economic capacity to thrive. Of equal importance is the fact that this transition will bring our country closer to true energy independence and put us in a position of leadership in addressing global environmental issues.

If we want to diminish the impact that greenhouse gases will continually have on our planet over the next century, the effort to constrain carbon emissions must be expanded.

By promoting clean energy as a way to thoughtfully manage the potential risk of climate change, we are laying the foundation for its eventual mitigation. The progress already seen in the development of new energy technologies disproves the notion that centralized power is the only practical solution to addressing climate change, affirming that every problem cannot be solved through the rulemaking of a heavy-handed bureaucracy.

To efficiently and effectively address this issue, we need an approach that is market-based as opposed to one driven by an increase in top-down government regulation. Enacting policies that encourage the private sector to invest, not only in general infrastructure projects, but long-term visionary technologies, will lead to economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. Tax incentives for developing energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower are just one way of encouraging America’s innovators to develop advanced solutions. And this energy transition cannot exclude low-income Americans.

Last month I joined 10 of my House colleagues in introducing a resolution that calls for increased environmental stewardship through economically viable solutions to address changes in our climate. It is vital for Congress to acknowledge the reality of climate change as a legitimate issue requiring feasible solutions, and we need leaders on both sides of the aisle to pursue policies that will make a difference. I am confident this House resolution takes an important first step in seeking outcomes that make America a healthier, safer and more prosperous place.

I understand the reluctance that some of my Congressional colleagues and fellow Americans have about investing in renewable energy sources to address a problem whose impacts are not immediately noticeable. However, accelerating clean energy efforts in the present will minimize the risk of serious climate-change effects and overbearing regulations in the future. This cannot be viewed as only a “coastal” issue, as it will inevitably become a global burden for future generations.

As a husband and a father, I want to ensure that my family and future generations can enjoy the magnificence of places such as the Everglades and Biscayne National Park, which could disappear if climate change is ignored.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo represents the 26th District, which includes all of Monroe County and a portion of southwest Miami-Dade County.