Freshman Congressman Nick LaLota, who represents the East End of Long Island, will be the guest of honor tonight at a fund-raiser for Manny Vilar, a Springs Republican running for Suffolk legislator. Congress does not have that much of an obvious effect here, other than perhaps on marginal tax rates for the very rich, but on global warming policy it is a crucial player. Mr. LaLota recently joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, but whether it — and he — can move the G.O.P.-controlled House of Representatives on the issue is doubtful.
What the climate caucus can accomplish is a good question. In a previous iteration, according to Politico, the caucus was derided by climate advocates as enabling conservatives with some of the worst environmental records to “greenwash” themselves by joining the group, where they could associate with climate champions while doing nothing to address global warming. It is too soon in Mr. LaLota’s term in Congress for ratings from outside groups, but former Representative Lee Zeldin, who held the First District seat before him, had a lifetime ranking from the League of Conservation Voters of 14 on a scale of 1 to 100.
As a whole, Republicans are not all that worried about climate change. In a national poll conducted by National Public Radio, “PBS NewsHour,” and Marist College, fewer than a quarter of Republicans saw climate as a top priority, as opposed to more than half of all respondents and 80 percent of Democrats. Seventy percent of Republicans said that climate change was only a minor issue or no threat at all. This is something that Mr. LaLota will have to bear in mind as he thinks about his re-election chances. But for his district, inaction would be catastrophic.
Last year’s Sea Level Rise Technical Report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service, prepared with the help of NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Defense Department, among other agencies, said sea levels are expected to rise up to a foot in the next 30 years. This will exponentially increase beach erosion here, as well as contribute to flooding well inland. In terms of public infrastructure costs alone, the price tag will be astronomical.
Mr. LaLota was among 225 almost entirely Republican House members who voted to pass the so-called Lower Energy Costs Act, which was intended to increase oil and gas production in the United States while scaling back on climate initiatives. For Mr. LaLota, that vote may have been good politics, but for his district, it may prove a disaster.