Quantcast

House Democrats Hold First Climate Change Hearings in More Than 5 Years

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on Feb. 6 titled "Time for Action: Addressing the Environmental and Economic Effects of Climate Change." Energy & Commerce Committee / YouTube screenshot

President Donald Trump might have left climate change out of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but the next day, House Democrats filled the silence with twin committee hearings addressing the issue.

Both the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change and the Natural Resources Committee met Wednesday morning to discuss the problem. Democratic California Representative Scott Peters tweeted it was the first Energy and Commerce hearing to focus on the issue in six years, while House Natural Resources Committee Chairman and Democratic Arizona Representative Raúl M. Grijalva said it was the first hearing on climate change in eight years, as CNN reported.


"Today, we turn the page on this committee from climate change denial to climate action," Grijalva said.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the hearings:

1. 'Turning the Page' on Denial

House Republicans participating in the hearings largely abandoned outright denial of climate science, E&E News reported.

When Colorado Democratic Representative Diana DeGette asked every witness called by both parties before the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee if they believed the climate was changing primarily due to greenhouse gas emissions, they all said yes.

"That in itself is a revolutionary step for this committee," DeGette said, E&E News reported.

However, there was more skepticism expressed by Republicans and their witnesses at the Natural Resources Committee hearing. One Republican witness was retired chair of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology Judith Curry, who argued that droughts and extreme weather events in the past had been worse than those that have taken place in recent years, The Guardian reported.

2. Green New Deal

Most Republicans, however, opted to accept that climate change is happening while they shifted their disagreement to how it should be addressed.

Republican West Virginia Representative David McKinley told the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee that "we all agree" on what is happening. "Where we disagree is on solutions," he said, E&E News reported.

Republicans like McKinley focused their opposition on a Green New Deal, an ambitious plan supported by some Democrats to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels while providing green jobs and addressing economic inequality.

"If anyone thinks that decarbonizing America is going to save the planet, whether that's 10 years or 20 years from now, they're delusional," McKinley said.

Republicans generally prefer market or technology based solutions to sweeping policy proposals, E&E News reported.

"We have heard about general tenets of the plan for the U.S., such as all renewable electricity generation by 2030, all zero emission passenger vehicles in just 11 years, a federal job guarantee and a living wage guarantee," Republican Oregon Representative Greg Walden said. "We have serious concerns about the potential adverse economic and employment impacts of these types of measures."

However, top Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee like Subcommittee Chairman and New York Democratic Representative Paul Tonko and full Committee Chairman and New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone are also skeptical of the idea. Pallone recommended addressing climate change within an infrastructure bill that Trump would sign as the most politically realistic way forward.

3. Bipartisan Impacts

In a show of how much climate change is already affecting American daily life, both Republican and Democratic governors testified before the Natural Resources Committee about what it had done to their states.

North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper spoke of the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence and other recent storms. He said his state had survived two 500-year flooding events in two years.

"When storms are becoming more fierce, it is not enough to pick up the pieces. We must take action to prevent this kind of devastation in the future," Cooper said, as CNN reported. "I urge Congress and all of our federal partners to match the level of determination brought to recovery efforts to fight the effects of climate change."

Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker agreed with Cooper on the need for preventative action. He spoke about the impact that more frequent storms, higher temperatures and warmer oceans had had on his state's residents, agriculture, recreation and fisheries and called both for federal plans for infrastructure adaptation and emissions reduction.

"This is not a challenge any one of us can solve alone. We need collective action from federal, state and local governments working with the private sector to aggressively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changes that are already in motion," Baker said, CNN reported.

Sponsored
On thin ice. Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Russian military is taking measures to protect the residents of a remote Arctic settlement from a mass of polar bears, German press agency DPA reported.

The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.

Read More Show Less

This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.

"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Over the past few years, it seems vegan cooking has gone from 'brown rice and tofu' to a true art form. These amazing cooks show off the creations on Instagram—and we can't get enough.

Read More Show Less
The USS Ashland, followed by the USS Green Bay, in the Philippine Sea on Jan. 21. U.S. Department of Defense

By Shana Udvardy

After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.

Read More Show Less
The Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky. CC BY 3.0

Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.

Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.

Read More Show Less