- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fierce winter storms in the South and drought in the West have reignited the debate about climate change, with America’s politicians still in disagreement over the cause of extreme weather and whether the country has the cash or political will to try to fix it.

Republicans and Democrats alike said Mother Nature’s latest assaults are taking an economic toll and forcing local leaders to grin and bear it or innovate their way out of tough conditions. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said snow-removal budgets are tapped out after an unusual one-two punch of snowstorms across the region. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the city is struggling to find ways to deliver dwindling water supplies to a rising population.

Everyone wants clean air and water, but the political consensus between the parties seems to end there. Republicans said the jury is still out on what’s driving climate change, and that reforms should not mean fewer jobs in the energy sector.

President Obama and many Democrats, meanwhile, along with their supporters in the environmental community, have held up extreme weather events such as California’s drought, Hurricane Sandy and others as proof that climate change is wreaking havoc all across the planet.

Touring drought-ravaged California on Friday, Mr. Obama sounded an ominous warning saying that even if the federal government takes meaningful action to combat climate change, much of the damage already has been done.

“Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse, and the hard truth is even if we do take action on climate change, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades. The planet is slowly going to keep warming for a long time to come,” Mr. Obama said at a farm in Los Banos. “We’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for. We’ve got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate.”

But the issue remains bitterly divisive, and many lawmakers think Mr. Obama’s dire warnings are grossly overstated.

“I think the big debate is how much of it is man-made and how much of it will just naturally happen as Earth evolves,” Mr. McCrory, a Republican, told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday. “And the question then is what do we do about it and how much it will cost the consumer?”

The heated debate over climate change has led to near gridlock on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and some Democrats standing in staunch opposition to major legislative proposals to address the issue. That opposition helped kill the controversial 2010 cap-and-trade bill, which would have put a limit on carbon emissions nationwide.

Bill Nye, “the Science Guy,” a well-known educator and television host, accused a Republican congresswoman on Sunday of ignoring the consequences of melting Antarctic ice and other proven trends.

“You are a leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening,” Mr. Nye told Rep. Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ms. Blackburn said the issue isn’t so cut and dry, and federal agencies have refused to do a cost-benefit analysis of what can be done. But Mr. Nye contended that Americans are poised to make a ton of money by creating and exporting carbon-cutting technology.

“We need to do everything all at once, and this is an opportunity for the United States to innovate, to be the world leader in new technologies,” he told NBC.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat, issued a similar call to action in a separate interview. He said his city is reforming its water delivery and usage systems amid the driest year on record.

“I think people have recognized we’ve kind of lost the first few skirmishes with climate change,” he told Mr. Stephanopoulos. “We’re strengthening the defenses. Out here in Los Angeles, for instance, we consume the same amount of water as we did 30 years ago with a million more residents. So we’re Americans. We adapt. We innovate. We’re good at doing those sorts of things.”

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