It has been an inauspicious few days for congressional Republicans when it comes to action on the climate crisis. Hours before Tuesday's State of the Union address, the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected an amendment that would simply have recognized that climate disruption is occurring. Minutes after the president was done speaking, four congressional Republicans gave four separate televised responses that offered a grand total of nothing regarding climate. And on Wednesday, members of that Republican congressional conference -- a sizable majority of whom deny basic climate science -- began their three-day retreat at a place right in the path of some of climate disruption's worst expected outcomes.
Speaker John Boehner and his colleagues are calling it a meeting of the "Congress of Tomorrow," but if they continue to stand in the way of climate action, the place where they are having their retreat soon may not have a tomorrow. This year, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina -- a resort located on Maryland's waterfront, and just one of numerous areas on the eastern seaboard at risk of sea level rise.
Take a look at the map above, collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's maps depicting the vulnerability of different regions to sea level rise and coastal flooding. The dark red indicates the retreat is occurring in an area of "high" vulnerability. The light blue shows the expected impact of sea level rise of up to six feet. Clearly, the choice of location is an ironic one for a group with so little to say on climate action.
Climate scientists have been very clear: As Earth's temperatures continue to rise as a result of human activity -- such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas -- sea levels will continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to experts, the sea level in Maryland could rise upward of six feet by the end of the century.
It's not just Maryland. As of 2010, two out of every five Americans -- more than 123 million of us -- lived near the coast. This includes major cities like New York, New Orleans, Boston, and San Diego. And, in addition to the shoreline erosion, the costs, severity, and frequency of extreme storms like Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan are expected to increase in those areas.
If those storms weren't a wake-up call to every elected official that we need to act on climate, we can only hope the congressional Republicans' choice of location will help open their eyes to the reality of what's at stake -- but we certainly don't expect it. After all, these are the folks who have earned the inauspicious designation as the most anti-environmental Congress in history.
The worst effects of climate disruption won't discriminate when it comes to political party -- National Geographic's recent image of the effect on North America if all sea ice melts makes that shockingly clear. Whether they are looking at the coastline in Cambridge or at these projections, the dire need for action is staring climate deniers right in the face. The question they’ll be judged on is whether they actually do something about it.