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These House Republicans say climate change is real and it’s time to fight it

This story was originally published by Newsweek and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

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).


Paris climate talks reach the final stretch, plus a 90 second recap

There’s a lot to digest about from the Paris Climate talks, so if you’re short on time, here’s a nice and simple recap from Climate Desk. […]

This Deadly Hurricane Is the Strongest Ever in Our Hemisphere

This Deadly Hurricane Is the Strongest Ever in Our Hemisphere

Posted by on Friday, October 23, 2015

Hurricane Patricia will make landfall today.

The strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere is barreling toward Mexico’s Pacific coast, where it is expected to make landfall later Friday. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Patricia now has maximum sustained wind speeds near 200 miles per hour and even higher wind gusts. That makes it a Category 5 storm—the highest rating on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Hurricane warnings are currently in effect for much of the Mexican states of Nayarit, Colima, and Jalisco, including the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, whose metropolitan area is home to 380,000 people. Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated, according to the Vallarta Daily.

National Hurricane Center

Category 5 hurricanes are terrifying. According to the NHC, during a typical storm of this strength, “a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.” The NHC is predicting that Patricia will make a “catastrophic landfall,” dumping up to 20 inches of rain in some areas, which will likely result in “life-threatening” flash floods and mud slides. There will also be an “extremely dangerous” storm surge that will cause substantial coastal flooding “accompanied by large and destructive waves.”

The remnants of the storm could even help produce heavy rainfall along the Texas coast in a few days.

Hurricane Patricia’s incredible power may be part of a disturbing pattern. As Chris Mooney reported for Climate Desk a couple years ago, a number of the world’s major hurricane basins have set (or have arguably set) new hurricane intensity records since the year 2000.

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Think the Climate Debate Is Settled? Jeb Bush Says You’re “Arrogant”

Think the Climate Debate Is Settled? Jeb Bush Says You’re “Arrogant”

Posted by on Monday, June 15, 2015

You’ll be shocked to learn that the former Florida governor is “not a scientist.”

On Monday, Jeb Bush is expected to officially launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. While some pundits are portraying the former Florida governor as a moderate, there’s at least one issue on which Bush appears to be just as far to the right as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul: climate change. Back in December, we put together a video highlighting Bush’s past statements that he’s a global warming “skeptic,” that he’s “not a scientist,” and that the world “may not be warming.”

Since then, Bush’s climate science skepticism has continued. “I don’t think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural,”he said in May. “For the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant.” Watch the updated video above for a sample of Bush’s climate rhetoric.

Master image: Charlie Neibergall/AP

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It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Call It “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”

It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Call It “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”

Posted by on Thursday, May 15, 2014

We should stop trying to spin what’s happening to the globe, and start dealing with it.


There are few things more symbolic of our climate dysfunction than the strange idea that if only we gave the problem a different name, we’d be able to deal with it. Nonetheless, for years there have been intimations that we should cease saying “global warming” and instead say “climate change”—albeit for wildly different reasons.

The case for this phrase change dates at least back to an infamous 2002 memo by conservative strategist Frank Luntz, who argued that “while global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.” Luntz was giving this advice in the context of also advising Republicans to highlight the “lack of scientific certainty” about climate change. In a study published in 2011, however, researchers at the University of Michigan actually found that Republicans seem to be more willing to accept the reality of the problem when the “climate change” label was used.

Most recently, however—and as Media Matters documents in the helpful video below—conservatives have seized on the bizarre idea that the environmental movement is now saying “climate change” because it can explain anything, including “decades of global cooling,” as one Fox News host claimed. In other words, the accusation is that this a sneaky way to cover up the reality that global warming is a sham.

Here at Climate Desk, we’ve used the terms pretty much interchangeably. So have scientists. From a scientific perspective, after all, both phrases have validity. There’s no doubt that the single clearest indicator of what carbon dioxide emissions are doing to our planet is a global warming trend. At the same time, though, this trend results in much more than just warming. From changes in rainfall patterns to potential jet stream alterations, the term “climate change” certainly captures a broader range of consequences. In fact, NASA argues, on this basis, that it’s the preferable term.

But which term should we use from a public opinion perspective? What’s the better frame? Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who is currently serving as the Gallup scholar for the environment, has just published a comprehensive polling analysis suggesting that basically, it’s a wash. “The public responds to global warming and climate change in a similar fashion,” writes Dunlap. For instance: When you show people a list of environmental problems and ask if they personally worry about each one “a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all,” 34 percent say they worry a great deal about global warming, and 35 percent say the same about climate change.

The more pertinent issue, though, is whether ideological groups respond differently to different phrasings. Dunlap looked at that too. Breaking responses down by ideology, he found that only 16 percent of Republicans say they worry a great deal about “global warming”…and only 17 percent say the same for “climate change.” In the other three possible response categories—a fair amount, only a little, not at all—the results were also quite similar, as you can see in the table below.


In sum, 36 percent of Republicans worried a great deal or a fair amount about “global warming,” and 39 percent worried a great deal or a fair amount about “climate change.” By contrast, 83 percent of Democrats worried either a great deal or a fair amount about both “global warming” and “climate change.”

“While there are slight differences in the degree of partisan and ideological divergence in responses to global warming versus climate change,” Dunlap concludes in his paper, “they are not statistically significant, and modest compared with the huge gaps in views of both terms held by Americans at the two ends of the political spectrum.”In sum, 36 percent of Republicans worried a great deal or a fair amount about “global warming,” and 39 percent worried a great deal or a fair amount about “climate change.” By contrast, 83 percent of Democrats worried either a great deal or a fair amount about both “global warming” and “climate change.”

That’s not to say there wasn’t a time, perhaps as recently as mid-2009 (when the data were collected for the Michigan study cited above), when conservatives were indeed more open to taking the problem seriously if it was labeled “climate change” rather than “global warming.” But if so, those days are long gone. Dunlap suggests that this is because conservatives have gotten just as used to dismissing “climate change” as they are to dismissing “global warming.” Certainly, the name bestowed upon their favorite pseudo-scandal, late 2009?s “ClimateGate,” didn’t help matters.

Nor does the right’s cynical new idea that the climate crowd shifted to saying “climate change” in order to paper over a supposed lack of warming. “In recent years a popular meme on skeptic and conservative blogs is that climate scientists and climate policy advocates have shifted to climate change because it refers to abnormally cold as well as warm weather and is thus harder to dispute—even though climate scientists have used both terms from the late 1980s onward,” comments Dunlap by email. “The result is that in conservative circles climate change has become as politicized as global warming, and the two terms now seem synonymous.”

So, in sum: If you thought clever word-smithing was going to save the planet, forget about it. It doesn’t matter what you call it: It’s getting a lot hotter.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Talks State-Level Climate Change Solutions (WATCH LIVE)

While he was serving as a U.S. representative, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) had one of the strongest environmental records in the House, and now, as the country mulls the latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Pacific Northwest is poised to become a leader in sustainability.

Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia signed a pact last year to combat climate change, which includes plans to reduce emissions and spur growth of renewable energy projects throughout the corridor. California and B.C. have passed legislation to limit carbon pollution, but the other two states have yet to do so and Washington is considering plans for a massive coal export facility.

Governor Inslee will sit down with Climate Desk Live on April 1 to discuss his state’s environmental future, covering everything from the proposed facilities, to plans to cut carbon emissions and raise fuel efficiency standards.

The event, moderated by Climate Desk’s Chris Mooney, will also feature David Roberts, senior staff writer for Grist, Dr. Lisa J. Graumlich with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment and Paul Shukovsky, the Pacific Northwest correspondent for Bloomberg BNA.

Tune in above at 6 p.m. EDT to watch the event live, or check back after its conclusion to watch the entire segment.


Explained in 90 Seconds: Breaking the Carbon Budget

Explained in 90 Seconds: Breaking the Carbon Budget

Posted by on Thursday, November 21, 2013

To avoid catastrophic climate change impacts, 37 percent of fossil fuels held by publicly listed companies should stay buried.

As we reported this week, some of the world’s richest nations are lagging behind on their climate protection pledges. Most often, these commitments follow the formula: “We aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions X percent below year Y levels by year Z.” It seems like a straightforward proposition, but have you ever wondered where those numbers come from? The answer is a scientific concept known as the carbon budget, and like a teenager with her first credit card, we’re well on our way to blowing right through it.

In the video above, Kelly Levin, a climate policy expert at the World Resources Institute, explains what our carbon budget is, how much we’ve already “spent,” and why it matters.

Back in 2009, delegates to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen agreed that in order to avoid the worst potential impacts of climate change, global temperature rise should be limited to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. For their report this fall, scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looked at how emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have warmed the planet since the Industrial Revolution, and extrapolated how much more we could emit before breaking the Copenhagen limit, the same way you might draft a budget to keep your checking account balance above zero.

The IPCC set our total carbon budget since the Industrial Revolution at about 1 trillion metric tons of carbon. Today, we’ve already spent over half of that (largely thanks to just 90 companies, as Climate Desk partner the Guardian reported yesterday). If projections for future emissions hold true, Levin says, we’ll eat through the rest of the budget by 2044. That means that if we want to stick to the 2-degree C limit, we’d have to immediately cease all emissions, everywhere on Earth, on the first day of 2045. Turn off every fossil-fuel-fired power plant, charge every car only on renewable electricity, etc. Given the cruddy international track record of reaching even basic climate agreements—yesterday, 132 countries walked out of UN climate talks in Warsaw—that kind of turn-on-a-dime shift seems unlikely to happen. Instead, Levin argues, if we take measures to cut emissions starting now, we can stretch the budget much longer and give ourselves that much more time to clean up the energy system.

Which brings us back to those 90 companies, and many more who count unburned fossil fuels (still-buried coal, oil, and gas) among their bottom-line assets. No matter how long we drag it out, consuming all the world’s fossil fuels would burn straight through the budget, and then some. Burning the total volume of fossil fuels now held in reserve by publicly listed companies would emit the equivalent of 762 metric billion tons of carbon, according to a recent analysis by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. But we’ve only got about 485 billion left in the budget. In other words, if world leaders come together to actually enforce the Copenhagen warming limit, roughly 37 percent of the fossil fuels held by those companies will need to stay in the ground.

This is where the carbon budget becomes a carbon bubble: Companies valued on the basis of their fossil fuel holdings could find the rug pulled from under them if those holdings become impossible to sell. Recently, Al Gore and investment banker David Blood (who have collaborated on a consulting firm to help companies divest from fossil fuels) estimated the value of these “stranded assets” at some $7 trillion.

So the question now is: Are we really going to smash our carbon piggy bank? Watch Kelly Levin explain, above.

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