Earth to Congress: The cost of future Sandy disasters will only rise

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Republicans and Democrats in Congress acted responsibly in passing a $50.7 billion aid bill for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Why can't they do the same with climate legislation?

Curbing greenhouse gases won't make hurricanes like Sandy go away. But they'll likely happen with greater frequency and intensity if more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is warming the oceans and throwing weather fronts out of whack. Having utilities charge a few more pennies a month on electric bills for improvements to power plants that would curb man-made global warming is more prudent than having Congress write big checks after each disaster. Pollution controls have other benefits, too, such as lower public health costs and innovation, which creates jobs.

Scientists have not established a cause-and-effect relationship between climate change and tornadoes. But what about drought? Last year's drought -- the worst in 50 years -- is expected to stick taxpayers with a record bill of $15.8 billion for crop insurance losses because of poor yields. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut estimate the actual damage that Sandy did to their states at $82 billion.

Concern about climate change isn't tree-hugging. The military sees it as a threat to national security. Insurance firms track it to adjust policy rates.

The dollars that Congress is allocating for disaster argue for a more proactive approach. Lawmakers of both parties need to get serious -- finally -- about this environmental threat.

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