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How to Scare a Republican About Climate Change

Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama gives a major speech next Tuesday, when he addresses the United Nations Climate Summit among 160 heads of state and ministers. But members of his cabinet are already out there, making the case for why we should be fighting climate change. And they're giving the pitch a twist that, perhaps, we'll be hearing more next week. 

In a speech Friday at the Center for American Progress, for example, Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, makes an explicit connection between climate change and extreme weather. But he goes a step further, making the case that addressing climate change now—rather than waiting—should be something conservatives support, for fiscal reasons:

From where I sit, climate action is a must do; climate inaction is a can’t do; and climate denial scores – and I don’t mean scoring points on the board. I mean that it scores in the budget – climate denial will cost us billions of dollars. The failure to invest in climate solutions and climate preparedness doesn’t get you membership in a Fiscal Conservatives’ Caucus – it makes you a member of the Flat Earth Society. Climate denial doesn’t just fly in the face of the overwhelming judgment of science – it is fiscally foolish. And while we cannot say with certainty that any individual event is caused by climate change, it is clearly increasing the frequency and intensity of several kinds of extreme weather events. The costs of climate change add up and ignoring the problem only makes it worse.

Then Donovan gives examples. The costs of fighting wildfires has tripled since 1999, worsening droughts cost tens of billions of dollars to the economy annually, and the damage to the agriculture industry is costing taxpayers double, triple what was expected. In July, the White House released a report that found every decade of waiting to act on climate change increases the cost of acting by 40 percent. Democrats in Congress have begun making the same arguments, too, including Senate Budget Committee's Patty Murray, who held a hearing on the cost of inaction in July.