Throughout North Carolina, the start of summer means late-night barbecues, well-earned vacations from work and breaks from school. But as we know all too well, this time of year also marks the start of hurricane season.
Last year, Hurricane Florence devastated the North Carolina coastline, damaging military installations, ripping apart farmland, and upending family homes. You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize that climate change is making extreme weather events like Hurricane Florence more frequent and severe.
Nevertheless, our own U.S. Senator, Thom Tillis, continues to ignore a root cause of these increasingly frequent and powerful storms. He advocated for our state to receive funding to respond to the havoc wreaked by Florence but refuses to support action to address the pollution that leads to climate change which makes the impacts of extreme weather events much worse. With billions being spent by the federal government to respond to storms affecting communities across the country, we need Senator Tillis to join his colleagues in the House and Senate in addressing this problem head on.
More than 120,000 North Carolinians live in areas at risk of coastal flooding. For them, disaster relief funding isn’t enough. The truth is, if we don’t take steps to mitigate our contribution to climate change — and in turn the development of stronger and more devastating hurricanes — that number is expected to grow to over 160,000 by 2050.
While some referred to Hurricane Florence as a “1,000-year rain event,” evidence suggests that systems of this magnitude will be rolling through the Carolinas and other coastal areas much more often. While $19 billion in relief can help mitigate some of the damage, North Carolina communities can’t absorb that kind of destruction year after year. The math just doesn’t add up. We need to get in front of these storms rather than simply focusing on recovery.
As people of faith, we can think of no better way to care for God’s ultimate creation — this planet that we call home —- than by taking steps to ensure it’s here for our children and the generations that follow them.
While Sen. Tillis continues to ignore the clear evidence in front of him, North Carolinians are increasingly acknowledging that climate change is impacting their coasts and want policy solutions that do something about it. Gov. Roy Cooper even committed to cut North Carolina’s carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2025, a change well in-line with the Paris Agreement, the global commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Meanwhile, Sen. Tillis supports President Trump’s attempts to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement.
Sen. Tillis might not have a plan to act on climate, but his Democratic colleagues in the Senate do. Earlier this month, several members of the Senate introduced the International Climate Accountability Act — legislation designed to address the urgent climate crisis by ensuring the U.S. honors its commitments to the Paris climate agreement.
So far, Sen. Tillis has refused to support this bill, ignoring the growing evidence that Americans are increasingly concerned about climate change and want federal action to address the climate crisis. Simply put, Sen. Tillis is jeopardizing North Carolinians’ health and economic future.
History shows that there will be another multi-billion-dollar storm. There was after Isabel, there was after Matthew, and there will be another after Florence. History also shows that, thus far, Senator Tillis is failing to stand up for North Carolinian families by doing something about it. But he should. He owes it to the Marines at Camp Lejeune, the farmers throughout the coastal plains, and the countless families who lost their homes and livelihoods to Hurricane Florence.
Penny and Mark Hooper are the owners of Hooper Family Seafood in Smyrna, NC.
Disclosure: Dr. Eric Mansfield, a member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Justice Center, parent organization of NC Policy Watch, is a declared candidate for Tillis’ Senate seat.