House Republicans Plan to Call for Action on Climate Change

House Republicans Plan to Call for Action on Climate Change

Rep. Chris Gibson of New York is leading the charge, and nine other Republicans are on board.

September 15, 2015

A co­ali­tion of House Re­pub­lic­ans is gear­ing up to make waves by call­ing for ac­tion to fight cli­mate change on the eve of Pope Fran­cis’s vis­it to Cap­it­ol Hill.

Ten Re­pub­lic­ans have so far signed onto a res­ol­u­tion af­firm­ing that hu­man activ­ity con­trib­utes to cli­mate change and en­dors­ing ac­tion to re­spond to the threat of Earth’s chan­ging cli­mate. The res­ol­u­tion is ex­pec­ted to be un­veiled as early as Thursday.

Rep. Chris Gib­son, a New York Re­pub­lic­an, led the charge in craft­ing the res­ol­u­tion and con­vin­cing oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans to speak out in sup­port. “This is a call for ac­tion to study how hu­mans are im­pact­ing our en­vir­on­ment and to look for con­sensus on areas where we can take ac­tion to mit­ig­ate the risks and bal­ance our im­pacts,” Gib­son told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en and Car­los Cur­belo of Flor­ida, Robert Dold of Illinois, Dave Reich­ert of Wash­ing­ton, Pat Mee­han, Ry­an Cos­tello, and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik of New York all con­firmed to Na­tion­al Journ­al that they have signed on as co­spon­sors of the res­ol­u­tion.

The tim­ing is no ac­ci­dent. Pope Fran­cis has warned that man-made cli­mate change will hurt the poor and most vul­ner­able mem­bers of so­ci­ety, and the Vat­ic­an is call­ing on world gov­ern­ments to work to­geth­er to fight glob­al warm­ing in June.

When Fran­cis speaks to Con­gress next week—an event that will mark the first time any pope has ad­dressed a joint ses­sion of the House and Sen­ate—he is widely ex­pec­ted to call for bold and de­cis­ive ef­forts to com­bat Earth’s rap­idly-rising tem­per­at­ures.

Cli­mateWire first re­por­ted Gib­son’s plan to in­tro­duce the res­ol­u­tion this week.
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En­vir­on­ment­al­ists are pre­par­ing to seize on the oc­ca­sion of the pap­al vis­it, and the en­thu­si­asm for cli­mate ac­tion it is ex­pec­ted to gin up, by or­gan­iz­ing a ma­jor cli­mate rally on the Na­tion­al Mall the day of the speech on Sept. 24.

But a call for ac­tion on glob­al warm­ing led by Re­pub­lic­ans is something al­to­geth­er dif­fer­ent.

Ever since the col­lapse of com­pre­hens­ive cli­mate le­gis­la­tion, which died in the Sen­ate dur­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s first term, Re­pub­lic­ans have largely shunned le­gis­lat­ive ef­forts to con­front glob­al warm­ing. Even ad­mit­ting that hu­man activ­ity has caused tem­per­at­ures to rise has be­come vir­tu­ally off-lim­its among Re­pub­lic­ans.

On the 2016 cam­paign trail, some Re­pub­lic­ans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas still deny the real­ity of glob­al warm­ing, while oth­ers such as former Sen. Rick San­tor­um have said that there is noth­ing the United States can do to make a dent in the situ­ation.

Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial con­tenders are un­an­im­ous in voicing op­pos­i­tion to Pres­id­ent Obama’s reg­u­la­tions to rein in car­bon emis­sions from power plants, a ma­jor policy ini­ti­at­ive that the White House has taken to com­bat the threat of glob­al warm­ing.
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At least some mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have grown frus­trated by what they see as their party’s si­lence on a press­ing and ur­gent prob­lem. The En­vir­on­ment­al De­fense Ac­tion Fund, the polit­ic­al arm for the mod­er­ate en­vir­on­ment­al or­gan­iz­a­tion En­vir­on­ment­al De­fense Fund, bank­rolled a ma­jor ad buy last year in a bid to bol­ster green-minded Re­pub­lic­ans, an at­tempt to turn the tide in the face of con­ser­vat­ive in­ac­tion when it comes to cli­mate change.

Vir­tu­ally all of the House Re­pub­lic­ans who have signed on to the soon-to-be in­tro­duced cli­mate res­ol­u­tion hail from mod­er­ate or swing dis­tricts, many in the North­east­ern U.S.

A num­ber of the co­spon­sors are up for reelec­tion in 2016 in mod­er­ate dis­tricts where back­ing a res­ol­u­tion in fa­vor of cli­mate change could help them in the race. Cur­belo and Dold are both run­ning for reelec­tion. Reich­ert, Mee­han, Cos­tello, Hanna, Ros-Le­htin­en, and Stefanik have not yet an­nounced if they plan to run for reelec­tion.

Gib­son, the lead au­thor of the res­ol­u­tion, and Rep. Fitzpatrick are not run­ning for reelec­tion.

Forty-eight per­cent of Re­pub­lic­an voters prefer a can­did­ate call­ing for ac­tion to tackle hu­man-made glob­al warm­ing, as op­posed to someone who sidesteps the is­sue en­tirely or calls cli­mate change a hoax, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey re­leased in Janu­ary by The New York Times, Stan­ford Uni­versity, and en­vir­on­ment­al think tank Re­sources for the Fu­ture.

Still, the res­ol­u­tion is all but guar­an­teed to spark cri­ti­cism from en­vir­on­ment­al­ists, who are likely to say that that the call to ac­tion is watered down. While the res­ol­u­tion notes that hu­man activ­ity con­trib­utes to a chan­ging cli­mate, it stops short of ex­pli­citly ac­know­ledging the sci­entif­ic con­sensus that hu­man activ­ity has been the primary driver of glob­al warm­ing in re­cent years.

Many en­vir­on­ment­al­ists be­lieve that mean­ing­ful ac­tion to tackle rising tem­per­at­ures will come only on the heels of an af­firm­a­tion of that sci­entif­ic con­sensus, warn­ing that if law­makers do not em­brace the con­sensus as fact, it will be far too easy to find ex­cuses not to act.

For now, the fate of the Re­pub­lic­an cli­mate push re­mains un­clear. House Speak­er John Boehner has dis­missed the threat of man-made cli­mate change in the past, say­ing that he is not qual­i­fied to de­bate cli­mate sci­ence.

 

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