Climate denial in U.S. Congress ignores climate impacts at home

Intro

A Congressional hearing on Wednesday demonstrated how climate change remains an issue where fossil fuel lobbyists are trumping the will of the people. Conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Power used their pulpits Wednesday to grill the heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior on plans aimed at reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. Thirteen members of the subcommittee have publicly denied the existence of climate change and together they have taken a total of $7.7 million from the fossil fuel industry, yet their districts have seen more than $16 billion in climate related destruction since 2011. Despite accusations to the contrary made by many politicians, addressing climate change with clean energy solutions is good for the American economy, will help citizens avoid destruction to property and livelihoods and has strong political support even in swing states. By ignoring climate destruction in home districts and support for climate action throughout the country, many politicians in today’s hearing sounded more as if they were trying to protect the fossil fuels that fund their campaigns.

 

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MT @SierraClubLive Hey @RepFredUpton, these folks at the hearing have a hat for you #ActOnClimate #Denierpalooza pic.twitter.com/9s0k7b0Hat

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Key Points

  • Despite what fossil fuel puppet politicians are paid to say, study after study shows that taking on climate change creates jobs. Research by the University of Massachusetts and Ceres estimates that the new air-pollution rules limiting mercury and other toxics from power plants would create 637,922 direct jobs over five years. Likewise, a carbon-pollution standard for power plants would generate thousands of jobs in labor-intensive energy-efficiency retrofits in buildings; the manufacture, installation, and operation of wind and solar power; and other investments necessary to slash this pollution.

  • Those speaking out against pro-climate policies are heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry which has no interest in protecting American citizens against the threat of climate change. The vast majority of Republicans on the full committee and subcommittee have publicly refuted the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting that climate change is real.  Eighty-two percent of Republican members on the Subcommittee on Energy and Power—13 out of 17—deny the science. These 13 members have taken more than $7 million combined in dirty energy campaign money.

Background

On Wednesday September 18th,  Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a major hearing on climate change, entitled “The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities,” where they invited leaders of 13 U.S. federal agencies to testify. Gina McCarthy, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ernest Moniz, the new head of the Department of the Interior both testified. The hearing was the first such congressional hearing since President Obama unveiled his climate action plan in June 2013.

Prior to the hearing many of the members of the committee have gone on the record with outrageous remarks about climate change. For instance, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) has said climate science is “not settled.” GOP Rep. David McKinley has claimed the same. And GOP Rep. John Shimkus recently said global warming isn’t a worry because “God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.” During this hearing Rep. Barton continued on a line of questioning that focused on climate science instead of climate solutions.

Despite the confrontational remarks made by many of the Republican members of this committee there remains good reason for these members to take climate change seriously. For instance Committee Chairman Emeritus Rep. Joe Barton, Rep. Ralph Hall, Rep. Pete Olson and Rep. Michael Burgess  are all from tance Texas, which has suffered an astounding 58 climate-fueled disaster declarations from 2011 to August, 2013, more than any other state. 2011 was the driest year in state history, causing a record $7.62 billion in agricultural losses. Other anti-science quotes on Wednesday came from Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Col.), whose state has seen suffered 11 climate-fueled disaster declarations from 2011 to August, 2013, including the Black Forest Fire, which was the most destructive in Colorado history—15,000 acres were ablaze, 360 homes were destroyed, and 38,000 people were evacuated. These numbers do not include the 500-year floods that destroyed huge swaths of Colorado over the last week. The other members of the committee have similar situations brewing in their home districts despite their anti-climate rhetoric.

While the staunchest opposition to supporting pro-climate policies on the subcommittee tend to be seeing the most significant climate damage at home, they also enjoy some of the strongest support from the fossil fuel industry. According to OpenSecrets.org the majority of Republicans on the full committee and subcommittee are publicly avowed climate change deniers that have taken millions of dollars in dirty energy companies’ campaign money. Eighty-two percent of Republican members on the Subcommittee on Energy and Power—14 out of 17—deny the science behind climate change and have taken more than $7.7 million in dirty energy companies’ campaign money. The Texas members of this committee alone have taken more than 3 million dollars in contributions from dirty energy sources through their careers.

 

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Quotes

  • “The evidence is overwhelming, the science is clear, and the threat from climate change is real and urgent.” Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the Interior 
  • Right now, we waste enormous amounts of energy,” he said. “That wasted energy is also wasted money.” Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the Interior 
  • “Congress is seeking to regulate what it was unable to legislate no matter what the cost to jobs and the economy to address climate risks” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan)
  • “This Congress has been called a do-nothing Congress, but on climate we are doing worse than nothing, we are affirmatively obstructing progress,” Henry Waxman (D-California)

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