Cabinet members from four Republican administrations Wednesday made a plea for federal action to address climate change, citing new evidence that public opinion is shifting in favor of it.
The officials, all former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, said there is a sizable faction within the Republican Party that would support climate action, but only if they're backed by vocal public support.
"There are a lot of Republicans that do believe that the climate is changing and humans play a role in that," said Christine Todd Whitman, who led EPA under President George W. Bush. "They just need some cover. And if they hear from the public that this is an issue of importance to them "¦ you're going to find more and more of them speaking out."
Whitman was one of four Republican EPA chiefs to testify this morning before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined by William D. Ruckelshaus (who served under Presidents Nixon and Reagan), Lee M. Thomas (Reagan), and William K. Reilly (George H.W. Bush).
The current Republican Party line casts skepticism on the science linking human activity to global warming and staunchly opposes legislative or administrative carbon caps.
But in a roundtable with reporters, all four former officials reiterated the need for action on climate change, regardless of the political situation in Congress. And, citing an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found 61 percent of Americans back action to combat climate change, they predicted the political dam would break.