Can Republicans Convince Fellow Republicans On Climate Change? Apparently Not

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing yesterday about EPA’s proposed power plant regulations and invited four former EPA administrators to testify, all Republicans.

In unison, they spoke about the reality of climate change, exhorting fellow Republicans to stop denying it and to instead speak out because voters will be on their side.

But Republicans on the committee ignored even them, repeating the same tired arguments (kills the economy and jobs) against addressing climate change.   

"This shouldn’t be a partisan issue," said William Ruckelshaus, who served as EPA’s first administrator under Nixon and again under Reagan. While "there is legitimate scientific debate over the pace and effects of climate change, there’s no legitimate debate over the facts of the earth’s warming or over man’s contribution," "Something should be done, we ought to get on with it."

"The issue is settled. EPA does have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The law says so, and the Supreme Court has said so twice. The matter should be put to rest… My hope is the primary focus will be on the substance of the proposed rule and not EPA’s broad authority to promulgate it," said Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under GW Bush. 

Whitman and Bill Reilly (who also served under GW Bush) call the regulations "as creative as I’ve ever seen," giving states as much flexibility as possible. 

Last year, in a NY Times Editorial, they called on Congress to stop denying scientific evidence and support Obama. "Rather than argue against his proposals, our leaders in Congress should endorse them and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to achieve them – domestically and internationally," they wrote.

This photo shows before and after images of Alaska’s Pedersen Glacier from summer 1917 to summer 2005. 

Climate Change Pedersen Glacier Alaska
Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.

Republicans fought back with statements ranging from "carbon isn’t a pollutant, it’s plant food" (Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to dismissing IPCC’s science as flat wrong. They packed the room with bussed-in coal miners from Murray Energy. 

"I’m surprised at the continued refusal to believe that the science is as it is claimed to be by 11 national academies of science," says Reilly. "If you don’t like the IPCC, there are many other choices for authoritative science and it is pretty clear." 

Still, Whitman believes many Republicans understand human-caused climate change is real, "They just need some cover", which will come as the public insists on action. 

When the EPA was first established it wasn’t because "talking heads in Washington said this was great," it was because the  public demanded it, she said.
"You are going to find more and more Republicans speaking out."

Meanwhile in another room, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by blue-dog Landrieu (D-LA), voted to approve the
Keystone XL pipeline.

And the first lawsuit against EPA’s proposed power plant rules has been filed by Murray Energy. "This is clearly an illegal attempt by the Obama EPA to impose irrational and destructive cap-and-tax mandates, which Congress and the American people have consistently rejected," the company says. "EPA is obviously acting beyond its power in this case, which warrants court action before the rule is made final, Murray said. The company has also filed lawsuits on regulations that would limit the coal dust miners are exposed to.

Under EPA’s projections, coal is expected to provide 31% of US electricity in 2030, even with the regulations.  The Supreme Court has twice ruled that EPA has the power and in fact is required to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

A must-pass spending bill is currently held up in the US Senate because Republicans attached a rider that would block funding for EPA’s power plant rules.

Watch John Stewart’s take-off on Republicans’ reaction to their peers:

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