WASHINGTON (CN) – A climate change expert told lawmakers Wednesday that the window to combat rising global temperatures is still open, but it will require massive spending and research from the United States, on par with the effort to put a man on the moon.
Without such a mobilization, warned Rear Adm. David Titley, the world could face catastrophic temperature changes that would bring along wide-ranging threats like major storms and damaging weather patterns that could also pose a threat to national security.
“If we do nothing, if we continue business as usual, then that stability that we have built human civilization on is absolutely over, and we are going to take ourselves — not to be apocalyptic — but we are going to take ourselves into a place where we have not ever seen civilization before,” said Titley, an affiliate professor of meteorology and of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University.
During roughly two hours of wide-ranging testimony, Titley and others warned the House Budget Committee unflinchingly about how climate change contributes to rising sea levels, common storms that bring economic peril to coastal cities, and finally to diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks that could flourish with higher temperatures.
“Rising waters and recurrent flooding know no political boundaries,” said Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, who works as a special assistant for coastal adaptation and protection to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “They know no boundaries of wealth or race or of society.”
The hearing Wednesday marked the second time the House Budget Committee has considered climate change this year, as Democrats make the issue a primary focus of their time in leadership.
Many of the suggestions from witnesses focused on increasing government-funded research of new technologies that can counteract climate change. They said businesses have taken steps without the government’s lead to make such moves on their own, but that government involvement will be key going forward.
“We will continue to push and do as much as we can, but, to your point, we ask government to put a policy out there, tell us where you want us to be, and help us get there,” said Stefani Grant, senior manager for external affairs and sustainability at Unilever. “We can’t all do it by ourselves, but in the meantime, we’ll take the lead on it.”
Republicans addressed most of their questions throughout the hearing to Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, a conservative nonprofit that advocates for clean energy. Powell extolled the virtues of nuclear power throughout the hearing, calling it an energy source that is capable of immediately serving as an alternative to fossil fuels.
He said Congress should adopt policies that allow businesses in the United States to develop innovative alternative energy sources.
“I think we are absolutely seeing remarkable commitments from the private sector on this,” Powell said.
While Republicans throughout the hearing raised alarms about an increasing national debt amid calls for massive investment in the fight against climate change, Titley said the threat will not reduce without government action. He said lawmakers concerned about the national debt will have to make difficult decisions on funding levels to ensure the government can do enough to combat the changing climate.
“The ice, unfortunately, doesn’t care where our discretionary funding is, it just keeps melting,” Titley said.