Seventeen Republican members of the House of Representatives bucked their party’s prevailing stance on climate change and introduced a resolution on 15 March urging congressional action on the issue.
The resolution calls for the House to commit “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.”
The resolution, which mirrors one introduced in the previous Congress, states that unaddressed consequences of climate change have the potential to adversely affect all Americans and that “it is a conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment.” The resolution also states that any efforts to address climate change should not constrain the U.S. economy, especially regarding global competitiveness.
“We can simultaneously commit to responsible environmental stewardship and a strong economy,” said resolution cosponsor Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) in a statement. Love and nine other cosponsors are members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group exploring policy options that address climate change. The caucus currently has 13 Republican and 13 Democratic members. “I believe that this is the conservative ideal, and I look forward to engaging with my colleagues in crafting appropriate solutions that both preserve the beauty around us and create economic opportunity.”
Disagreement with the Administration
The measure comes at a time when the Trump administration is actively rolling back President Obama’s climate change programs, is looking into loosening up automobile fuel efficiency standards, and reportedly plans to issue an executive order to reverse other climate initiatives.
“As we are seeing with other issues, there are times when Republicans in Congress will disagree with the administration. And this is one of those times when some Republicans are willing to say, ‘We have a problem with climate change, something needs to be done,’” said Steve Valk, spokesman for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a grassroots advocacy organization based in Coronado, Calif., that focuses on national policies to address climate change. The group has worked closely with the caucus. “We’re not going to get any more help from the executive branch on climate change, so Congress really needs to be taking some action in coming up with solutions,” Valk told Eos.
A Starting Point
The resolution and the work of the caucus serve as starting points for a dialog with the administration about climate change, said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus. “While there is room for debate and discussion on the issue, it is vital that we never politicize protecting our environment or let partisanship prevent Washington from accomplishing common goals.”
Scott Jeffrey, a spokesperson for Rep. Mark Sanford, told Eos that the resolution “recognizes that the scientific community’s consensus around climate change is not an alternative fact. For too long, many in Republican circles have looked the other way on this issue.”
Political Cover for Republicans
The president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmell, noted that the resolution does not explicitly link climate change to fossil fuel emissions. However, he said that the resolution “shows that these Republican lawmakers are not in a state of denial” about climate change.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, called the resolution a good first step and said that he would sign on to the resolution if it is opened up for Democrats. “I hope [the resolution] can provide some political cover for Republicans who are on the fence—who understand the threats of climate change but are worried about voting in favor of lowering emissions, protecting public health, and slowing down global warming,” Lowenthal told Eos.
“Over a dozen Republican members of Congress on the record saying that climate change is a problem, combined with energy industry executives supporting the Paris [climate] Agreement, can’t hurt our prospects for staying in the Agreement,” he said. Still, a lot of important executive orders about climate change issued by President Barack Obama are “on the chopping block,” Lowenthal added, and President Trump rescinding them “would make it hard for the U.S. to fulfill its commitments under the Agreement, even if we stay at the table.”
—Randy Showstack (@RandyShowstack), Staff Writer