Despite the infrequency of severe weather events, such as hurricanes and wildfires, in West Virginia, we are very vulnerable to climate change.
According to the First Street Foundation, several of our communities are among those nationwide that have the highest flood risk. The study revealed that 51% of West Virginia’s infrastructure facilities, 46% of our road miles, and 37% of our commercial properties face significant flood risk. Each of these figures is roughly twice the national average. And 28% of our homes are at risk of being flooded. Only homes in Louisiana and Florida have a higher risk.
Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report described the impact that climate change is already having on our lives and will continue to have if we don’t act more aggressively to address it. Like previous reports, it said we’re running out of time.
Congress is well positioned to follow up its bipartisan infrastructure bill with a bipartisan climate bill. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to lead the global response to climate change. A U.S. climate bill must be big. However, the price tag doesn’t have to be. It just has to be more consequential.
Several Democratic and Republican policymakers recently voiced support for a carbon border adjustment, a fee that would be levied on imports based on their carbon content. It’s not surprising that both sides of the aisle support this. It ensures that U.S. businesses are competitive and encourages other countries to reduce their carbon emissions.
But we should put a domestic price on carbon as well. It’s the only policy that can help us meet our own ambitious climate goals and raise revenue. That revenue can be used for various things. Most importantly for West Virginia, it can be reinvested in communities whose economies have depended on carbon-based energy. It can also be used to reduce the national debt, help businesses and consumers adapt to energy transitions, and invest in green technology.
I hope Senator Manchin can support a policy that will allow West Virginia to thrive, even as the country moves away from carbon-intensive energy sources like coal. He and other elected leaders in the U.S. can demonstrate our country’s ability to transcend the politics of climate change and show that western democracy, fused with technology and capitalism, can solve problems.
Evan Hansen of Morgantown is a member of the House of Delegates, representing the 51st District.