Republicans vow to attack federal climate change efforts

The New York Times reports that senior Republicans are saying they will aggressively attack our administration’s environmental and climate change initiatives if their party wins a majority in the House of Representatives.  EPA will be on the defensive, using its resources to defend against these attacks rather than move forward with regulatory initiatives that both have been required by the courts and are supported by evidence.

At the same time, industry lobbyists – especially those representing oil, coal, and large manufacturers – are pushing the lame-duck Congress to strip away EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources even before the next Congress is seated.  Several key Democrats have been wavering or negative toward EPA authority in this area already.

Unfortunately, in the absence of federal climate and energy legislation, these developments likely mean that the federal government will be hamstrung from doing anything significant at all to combat climate change, possibly for years to come.  Even more than before, state regulatory initiatives, including California’s, will matter.  But anyone who has been following this issue knows that the U.S.’s actions at the federal level will be necessary for our country to participate meaningfully in international climate discussions and indeed to have any moral authority in addressing climate change internationally.  This is depressing news.

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Reader Comments

15 Replies to “Republicans vow to attack federal climate change efforts”

  1. Sean said:
    “…Unfortunately, in the absence of federal climate and energy legislation, these developments likely mean that the federal government will be hamstrung from doing anything significant at all to combat climate change, possibly for years to come…”

    Dear Sean,
    There is nothing that the government can do to control the climate. Climate legislation provides government employment opportunities and funding for numerous government programs and projects, but it does absolutely nothing to modulate atmospheric temperature.

    If new political leadership cancels climate legislation then government employees, contractors and climate attorneys may suffer, but the effect on atmospheric temperature would be same with or without legislation.

    It would be far more productive if we focus our efforts on resolving the scientific discrepancies regarding the role carbon dioxide and atmospheric temperature, before proceeding with ill conceived legislation.

  2. I heard they killed cats during the black death… allowing the rats carrying the fleas to multiply.
    That’s what the Republicans, and deniers are doing.
    These people are blocking the exits of a burning theater.

  3. bqrq>
    I would think that such legislation, signed into law, would hold people accountable. Isn’t that not influence to change people’s attitude towards global climate?

  4. Those of us who question the scientific basis of the theory of climate change are advocating for more research to clarify our understanding of the complex relationships between carbon dioxide levels and atmospheric temperature. After we fully understand this issue, then we should be able to move forward and resolve our differences over policy and legislation.

  5. bqrq… the science is solid.
    “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate”

    “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000”
    -Rob Watson

    Do you have children?

  6. If the science was completely solid then we could accurately determine how many tons of carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere in order to reduce the temperature by one degree celsius. Presently we do not know what effect, if any, would result from removing one billion tons or even one trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There is no one alive today that can definitively answer this simple question. We do not have a complete scientific understanding of the relationship between carbon dioxide levels and atmospheric temperature. This why there is so much controversy.

    I do have children and like any parent I want what is best for them.

  7. I don’t agree with that sentiment of “We need more science to prove something”. I mean, why? It seems as it’s a wise idea to regulate air pollutants, toxins, and just plain gunk as a common sense. I mean, do we need science to prove that these stuff are bad to our human health or our environment? I still think a precautionary measure on top of ongoing research is not a bad idea.

  8. Dear niko,
    You may be surprised to learn that the federal government has been regulating air pollution, water pollution, hazardous waste, toxins, and natural resources for over 50 years, and there have been tremendous environmental improvements because of these efforts. It seems that climate hysteria has caused the widespread and mistaken idea that air pollution is not already regulated.

    We need more research to understand climate change because America can not afford to waste billions of dollars on highly speculative and dubious “solutions” such as cap and trade which is ineffective and subject to fraud.

  9. bqrq,
    The reason there is controversy is because oil and coal companies have spent many millions of dollars manufacturing controversy.

    As for your comments on the state of scientific evidence on climate change, and whether current information warrants policy to try to slow human emissions of GHGs into the atmosphere:
    There are many contexts in which science can’t predict precisely the consequences of possible future actions, including the existing pollution regulations that you admit have provided “tremendous environmental improvements.” No one knows exactly how many cancer cases will be avoided by limiting the discharge of a particular pollutant into the environment. No one even knows exactly what the impacts of many pollutants are, as our understanding of these issues changes as scientific research advances. But despite that uncertainty, the risks and probabilities nonetheless have informed our policies, and, as you note, we often choose to regulate anyway, because of the risks involved.

    Climate change is similar. No one knows the exact rate at which human GHG production is increasing our average temperature, the exact regional impacts of the current unprecedentedly high level of GHG emissions, or exactly what the impacts of all this will be. But the probability is high that climate change that will be disruptive to human activity (which is adapted, in each region of the earth, to existing climatic conditions as well as existing physical features such as stable sea levels) and ecosystems in many parts of the globe. There is ample reason to believe that significant reduction in human-created GHGs will help to reduce the level of disruption.

  10. but the fact is that we don’t go above and beyond of what we are capable of doing to help the environment. I mean, sure, regulations that we have currently are great, but they can definitely be better -and not just on the topic of climate change and waste management. Just to state that “not enough science and data are out there to put this plan into action” is sorta slippery don’t you think? There are stuff that we know that is plainly bad for us and the environment, so do we need more data to actually act upon it? Even if the data turns out to be a false alarm (which I don’t know if stuff like that has happened), we still got a cleaner environment that makes all of us happier, right? Proactive rather than reactive, since a lot of our federal and state level (I live in CA) environmental agencies are all based on a reactive solution with dealing with problems -thing happened, let’s stop it from getting worse. Isn’t it better to say, this may happen, let’s not let it happen?

  11. niko said:

    “…There are stuff that we know that is plainly bad for us and the environment..”

    We have much trouble agreeing on what is “plainly bad for us.” There are those who claim that atmospheric carbon dioxide is a dangerous gas that threatens public health and safety. Others disagree and believe that carbon dioxide is essential for the environment and human health, and does not have a significant role in driving the global climate.

  12. If you want to take Carbon Dioxide as an example…

    But from the time the industrial revolution took place to now, we have been releasing a lot of carbon dioxide, more than previously so, correct? I would hope that people wouldn’t need data to figure that out since combustion’s biproduct is carbon dioxide -and we have a lot of stuff that involves combustion. Regardless if the carbon dioxide creates an adverse effect on the issue of climate change and global warming (pertaining to the Green House Effect), it still has an adverse effect on humans (let alone all non photosynthetic organisms -although, even I would think that photosynthetic organisms might not be able to handle such a load). I would feel that such legislations to curve carbon dioxide emissions is still worth it, even if it doesn’t affect climate change, since it’s still good for our health.

  13. Niko,

    Water is also a common by-product of fossil fuel combustion. Burning methane, for example, oxidises the hydrogen atoms to make H2O and the carbon atoms to make CO2. Both reactions release energy–the product–and thus the creation of CO2 and H2O are necessary by-products. But neither is commonly thought of as toxic pollutants the way conventional pollutants are(like carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide–both unnecessary by-products of combustion).

    With apologies to James Inhofe, carbon dioxide IS toxic (remember Apollo 13?). But not at the atmospheric concentrations ever expected from fossil fuel burning. When the EPA refers to health effects from CO2 levels, it’s referring to the indirect health effects that derive from global warming not, CO2 toxicity.

    Even though the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is very low w/ respect to other gasses, it is obviously a very important gas, absolutely central to life on Earth. Climate change aside, increasing, perhaps more than doubling the concentration of this gas in the atmosphere will certainly affect life on the planet. There are studies suggesting a ‘weedier’ planet at higher CO2 levels, but we don’t really know much about how ecosystems will change. But they will change. None of that has anything to do with EPA policy.

    Here’s something for the climate skeptics: Late October’s huge extratropical cyclone in the Upper Midwest “set a record for the lowest pressure (not associated with a hurricane) measured over land in the continental United States”

    Skeptics: Spare me the yawns.

  14. We learned today that in light of the election results, President Obama has offered to suspend efforts by the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide in return for Republican support on various clean energy proposals. This is a step in the right direction which will hopefully spur new industry and economic development in those states that have avoided carbon regulation.

    This election should provide new opportunities for progress on pressing environmental issues such as global warming, credible science, regulatory abuse, and jobs.

  15. ^ and why can’t I be that optimistic like you? I seriously believe that dealings of this matter just compromises the place we live, and make it harder in the long run to do the right thing when it really matters

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About Sean

Sean B. Hecht is the Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, and Co-Director o…

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About Sean

Sean B. Hecht is the Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, and Co-Director o…

READ more