In a symbolic move ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Congress, a group of Republicans plans to file a resolution acknowledging climate change caused at least in part by human activities and pledging to address its detrimental consequences.
Among those U.S. House members signing on are Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of whom represent coastal South Florida districts. Curbelo's district includes the low-lying Florida Keys.
"South Florida is the frontline of climate change, where we have seen its negative impact in the form of rising sea-levels and the erosion of our coastal communities," Curbelo said in a statement. "In Miami-Dade County alone, more people live less than a mere four feet above sea level than any state in the union with the exception of Louisiana. In fact, 40 percent of Florida's population is at risk of rising sea levels, posing a clear and present danger.
"Our goal with this resolution is to shift the debate from whether climate change is real to what we can do to mitigate its effects."
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., would commit the House to "working constructively...to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact."
Francis made a theological argument for environmental stewardship in an encyclical, or church teaching document, released earlier this year.
The resolution, expected to be filed later this week, states that there has been a "marked increase in extreme weather" with "noticeable, negative impacts," and that "pollutants and other factors" have contributed to the problem.
"[I]t is a conservative principle to protect, conserve and be good stewards of our environment, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground," the legislation says.
"We know sea levels have risen substantially in recent decades," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "As South Floridians, we should be concerned about the projected threat from future sea-level rise if we are to avoid the worst impacts to our livelihoods and to our region's economic vitality.
"That's a job I take seriously as a policymaker, and I'm proud to stand with my colleagues in the House of Representatives who understand what's potentially at stake and who recognize the leading role Congress must play in shaping a better future for all communities across our great nation."