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Seventeen Republican members of Congress from diverse districts — including representatives from coastal Southeastern states, Nevada, Utah, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania — submitted a resolution in the House Wednesday acknowledging that “human activities” have had an impact on the global climate and resolving to create and support “economically viable” mitigation efforts.
The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Elise Stefanik of New York, and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, is being submitted in the midst of an unprecedented effort by the most anti-science administration in recent American history to remove climate science studies and data from federal agencies.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump is about to sign an executive order repealing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to order a reconsideration of the government’s use of the “social cost of carbon” metric, which measures potential economic damage related to climate change.
Last week, meanwhile, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administator, Scott Pruitt, suggested that carbon emissions have nothing to do with climate change.
Curbelo, whose Miami-area district is already experiencing dramatic effects of rising sea levels, has been spearheading the effort to gather pro-science members on his side of the aisle since last year, when he coaxed 10 Republicans to join a bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which now has 30 members from 13 states, half of whom are Republican.
The resolution being submitted Wednesday states, “That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, 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.”
During a call with reporters Tuesday, Curbelo said there are “many, many more” Republicans in the House who are interested in the issue and “want to learn more, and who are considering joining this effort officially by putting their name on it.” He said his goal is to “move on to solutions that we can all rally around and that we can work on with our Republican and Democratic colleagues.” This would include, he said, pressing the administration to add projects to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as seawalls, in its expected infrastructure plan.
While prospects for a swell of GOP political support seem dim, given the president’s stated position that climate change might be “a Chinese hoax” and his EPA administrator’s open animosity toward the issue, Curbelo said he sees a possible wedge via members of Trump’s inner circle — presumably including his daughter Ivanka, who has reportedly lobbied her father on the issue.
“We know there are people very close to the president who understand this issue,” Curbelo said, without naming anyone. “These are people who have already been a very good influence on items such as the Paris Agreement, and we are looking forward to engaging those individuals so that we can take this conversation to a good place.”
Curbelo called Pruitt’s comments on carbon “disconcerting” and added, “What he said was akin to saying the Earth is flat in the year 2017. We must insist on evidence-based and science-based policies.” He also chastised Pruitt last week in a statement, saying,“Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades. That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable.”
One of the resolution’s signatories is Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who represents a section of his state known as the Low Country. Sanford, who grew up on a farm in the area, says he has seen firsthand the effects of rising sea levels, in acreage lost to salt water.
“The Low Country makes Miami Beach look like high ground,” Sanford said. “I just think there is inherent danger in the three-monkey routine — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil — related to climate change. To deny its existence is to deny what our country was founded on. The Founding Fathers designed a reason-based political system, and without reason the system doesn’t work.”
Curbelo’s climate caucus co-chairman, Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, released a statement Wednesday morning welcoming the GOP effort. “Americans don’t see climate change as a partisan issue, and neither should Congress,” he said. “As the Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I applaud my Republican colleagues for introducing this important resolution on climate change. We’re going to need lawmakers from both sides of the aisle working together, engaging in robust debate, following the science and finding bipartisan legislative responses to the growing threats of climate change.”
Polls have shown that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, and those fears among constituents, plus the fact that Republicans now control all branches of government and are thus a last line of defense, might be prompting more Republicans to reject the administration’s anti-science position. “The polling is very clear,” Curbelo said. “A clear majority understand this is a challenge we are facing, and among younger voters the numbers are staggering. Over 80 percent of millennials consider this a major issue. The House is the most representative institution in our government. This issue was regrettably politicized 20 years or so ago, and we are trying to take some of the politics out and reducing the noise.”
Others who signed the resolution are Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), John Faso (R-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla).
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The state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, had vetoed a bill that would require utilities to buy 25 percent of their electricity from wind, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources by 2020, but legislators voted to override his veto.
Now this new, stronger renewable energy standard replaces the previous one, which had called for utilities to be getting 20 percent of their power from clean sources by 2020.
Democrats argued the bill would create jobs, mitigate climate change, and clean up air pollution. Republicans said it would cost too much. According to the Baltimore Sun, “Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated it might raise residential electricity bills by 48 cents to $1.45 per month.”
It’s easy to focus on the U.S. presidency — that’s the center of the national reality show. But much of the substantive policy in this country is made on the state and local levels, where people are often more practical than ideological — or, you could say, more likely to be tailored for reality, rather than for reality TV.
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What does the CIA director have to do with climate change? A lot more than Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s pick for the agency’s top job, seems to appreciate.
During his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing Thursday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) examined the sitting Kansas congressman’s views on climate science. Quoting CIA Director John Brennan, who had a 25-year career at the agency, Harris noted that he cited climate change as one of the “deeper causes of rising instability.”
“Do you have any reason to doubt the assessment of these CIA analysts?” Harris asked.
“I haven’t had a chance to read those materials with respect to climate change,” Pompeo answered. “I do know the agency’s role there. Its role is to collect foreign intelligence, to understand threats to the world. That would certainly include threats from poor governance, regional instability, threats from all sources and to deliver that information to policymakers. To the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you all and to the president.”
Harris pressed Pompeo on his past comments in which he questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.
He replied that most of his commentary “has been directed to ensuring that the policies that America puts in place actually achieve the objective of ensuring we don’t have catastrophic harm that result from a changing climate.” He then added that he didn’t see any reason why climate change should be his concern at the CIA.
“Frankly, as the director of CIA, I would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science,” he said. “My role is going to be so different and unique from that. It is going to be to work alongside warriors keeping Americans safe. And so, I stand by the things that I’ve said previously with respect to that issue.”
Since the George W. Bush administration, officials in intelligence and at the Pentagon have warned that climate change poses a real security threat. The Department of Defense has described climate change as a “threat multiplier” that exacerbates disease, hunger, and terrorism. The State Department under John Kerry readily acknowledged that “climate change is a threat to the security of the United States” and countries around the globe.
Pompeo promised Harris he’d take a closer look at NASA’s climate research but couldn’t comment on Thursday. “I haven’t spent enough time to look at NASA’s findings in particular. I can’t give you any judgment on that today,” he said.
But Pompeo has vowed to take a closer look at the science for at least five years. Asked by CSPAN in 2013 whether he believed global warming was a problem, Pompeo, who was then serving his second term in Congress, was equivocal, repeating the debunked claims that there’s a pause in global warming and that the climate is cooling:
“I think the science needs to continue to develop. I’m happy to continue to look at it. There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.”
At another hearing on Wednesday, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, admitted, “I don’t see climate change as an imminent national security threat, but perhaps others do.” Tillerson, like Pompeo, might want to check in with the department he could soon lead.
For Harris’ part, the freshman senator is not sold on the next CIA director unless he is “willing to accept the overwhelming weight of evidence when presented, even if it turns out to be politically inconvenient or require you to change a previously held position.” Pompeo pledged he would look again at the facts, just as he’s been promising for years.
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Miami Beach gets all the attention for its increased chronic flooding due to rising sea levels. But Miami’s poorer, inland neighborhoods on the other side of Biscayne Bay are also experiencing flooding from high tides.
CityLab reports on Shorecrest, an economically diverse neighborhood in northeast Miami that flooded during last week’s King Tide.
That’s just a sign of more frequent things to come. The Union of Concerned Scientists projects that by 2045, these sunny-day flooding events will increase from six to 380 times per year.
Miami has many neighborhoods across the bay from Miami Beach that are just as flood-prone but, being less wealthy, have fewer resources to deal with the impacts. Since all of Miami-Dade County lies barely above sea level, and sits atop porous limestone, even poorer neighborhoods farther inland are vulnerable.
Shorecrest residents complained to CityLab that they get less adaptation help from local government than richer neighborhoods. (Miami Beach is a separate, richer city from the city of Miami.) On Miami’s west side, predominantly low-income, Latino neighborhoods face flooding that could pollute their freshwater supply.
Florida and Miami need to get serious not just about climate adaptation, but climate justice.