GOP Lawmakers are Blind to Science

The “nays” had it yesterday. At a meeting of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, all 31 Republicans voted against amendments stating that climate change is real. The Party of No has spoken, and it doesn’t bode well for the US to be a global leader on the environment.

Yesterday, three Democrats including Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced amendments about climate science. There wasn’t a word about policy. Just the science.

Rep. DeGette used the language that “the scientific evidence is compelling” for manmade climate change. Rep. Inslee proposed that “human-caused climate change is a threat to public health and welfare.” Rep. Waxman’s asked the committee to agree that “the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that 'warming of the climate system is unequivocal.’”

Softer language such as Rep. DeGette’s “compelling” and Rep. Inslee's mention of public health, despite it being a supposedly bipartisan issue didn’t sway a single Republican.

Instead, all morning Republicans spouted nonsense ranging from citing a now-discredited online poll by Scientific American about US public belief in climate change to tired charges that scientists are corrupt. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) won the day, though, with this gem justifying his denial of climate change: "A 17% reduction in a decade does not cure the problem being addressed here." Basically the reductions posed by the EPA wouldn’t be enough to avert the effects of climate change. Therefore, the science must be false. Got it?

During the session, some of the Republicans also took offense to being called “deniers.” At a lecture in Seattle in January, climate scientist Kevin Trenberth talking about the debate between “skeptic” versus “denier” labels said “if the shoe fits, wear it.”

The reality is when you can’t even admit the Earth is warming, regardless of cause, then that makes you a denier. The term fits House Republican just like Cinderella’s glass slipper.

The US now has the distinction of being home to the only major political on the planet that doesn’t accept the science of climate change. That denial has now led the House to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas regulations. How often do things like this happen? Never. This is the first time in US history politicians have overturned a scientific finding.

In the end, Republicans at least agreed the climate is warming though none were willing to admit why. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) got his amendment passed to say just that. It also included a stipulation that Congress needed a policy to address it. If it's natural, how you address melting ice caps and rising temperatures is beyond me, though. But as Matheson said to the Salt Lake Tribune: “My goal was to show there is some basis where this committee can agree on something.”

For too long supporters of climate change legislation have settled for this kind of compromise. And frankly, enough is enough. Agreeing on hard data that the Earth is warming is not politically important.

Action is what's important. And as the largest economy and second largest carbon emitter in the world, the US has an obligation to act. Yet that seems further and further off. At the United Nations climate talks in Bali in 2007 Papua New Guinea’s lead negotiator Kevin Conrad told the US negotiating team: “If you’re not willing to lead, then get out of the way.”

After yesterday’s hearings, it has become clear that the denial of science by one of the major parties in the US is complete. With it, the hopes of the US leading the world to solve the problem of climate change are dim.

Photo credit: left-hand/flickr