We Can — and Must — Tackle the Climate Crisis

“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”

- Pope Francis, Laudato Si.

On Thursday, Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress, and on the minds of many were his inspirational words and environmental call to action from his most recent encyclical, Laudato Si. I was inspired by his message of working toward justice for the less fortunate by sharing in the care of the earth, which we all call home.

As a native Floridian, born and raised in the Florida Keys and living along South Florida’s beaches my entire life, the threats to our coastline and our community because of climate change are not only deeply troubling, but personal.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper shows that one foot of sea level rise threatens the majority of our local coastline, and that many of these areas most vulnerable to climate change are also home to our most vulnerable community members, such as the elderly and the poor.

Even more troubling is that Florida’s predicament is not an isolated situation. Across the world, this same story is unfolding. The University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index is a metric that summarize the vulnerability to climate change and the adaptation potential of every country. The index clearly shows that the poorest countries of the world are some of the hardest-hit but the least able to adapt to rising sea levels.

The worst effects of climate change are occurring in communities that don’t have the resources to adequately adapt, while those responsible for the greenhouse gas pollution that drives climate change continue to damage the environment, largely without consequence. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis emphasizes this point: “The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes.”

I agree that we must take action to protect our environment to improve the lives of everyone in our global community, particularly the most vulnerable among us. As a public servant, I truly believe that we have a responsibility to act on climate change.

Furthermore, I agree that this is something we can accomplish. That is why, for example, I support the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, and am actively supportive of restoring our environment along with helping our communities protect against ongoing sea-level rise.

As we reflect on Pope Francis’ visit and take his message of action to heart, I hope that we will work toward solutions for climate change that reduce the impacts on vulnerable communities, alleviate suffering, and enable all people to participate in this process of making our common home a better place to live.

Congressman Patrick E. Murphy represents the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast in Congress. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Additionally, he is the co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus and a member of the Congressional Safe Climate Caucus.

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Rep. Patrick E. Murphy represents Martin, St. Lucie, and northern Palm Beach counties in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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