Inaction is no longer an option for climate change

New research released Monday definitively linked the recent global increase in coastal flooding to rise in sea level as a result of man-made global warming.

Though climate change is an issue scientists have been aware of for decades, it’s also been a problem people feel distant from, because many of the effects of climate change have been virtually nonexistent in the average person’s life. However, in the past few years, some of the more immediately damaging consequences of climate change have begun to emerge.

Monday’s reports provided compelling evidence that, if we continue to do nothing, the ocean will continue to rise and cause incalculable economic and infrastructural damage.

And yet, Republicans continue to treat climate change like a crackpot theory espoused by tinfoil-hat-wearing faux-scientists. Just last February, longtime Republican Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball onto the Senate floor and offered it as proof that global warming could not be real. And while Inhofe was widely mocked by liberals and moderates alike, conservatives continue to market the sentiment behind his stunt to the American electorate.

Anyone with even a basic understanding of climate change will tell you that this is not how it works at all. Even if a single location at a certain time feels “unseasonably” cold, as Inhofe put it, this does not disprove the mountain of data that suggests otherwise. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if climate change were real, seasons would cease to exist and snowfall in Washington D.C. – in the middle of winter no less – would suddenly become impossible.

It’s because of people like Inhofe that climate change has been consistently de-prioritized by politicians, even those who understand the damaging effects humans have on the environment. The conservative bully pulpit has battered moderate Republicans, who are afraid of losing their seats to Tea Party candidates or looking too left-wing in a presidential primary to stand up to their colleagues.

As of 2010, about 40 percent of the world’s population lived in coastal areas, according to the United Nations. Three-quarters of the world’s biggest cities are in coastal areas. The scope of this problem and the potential displacement of hundreds of millions of people can no longer be ignored.

Congress has let climate change take a back seat for far too long, but perhaps now that its members’ business and property interests are threatened, they’ll finally take action.

One thing is certain: if we continue to do nothing, thousands of years of culture and history will erode along with our coastlines.