When Francis speaks to Congress next week—an event that will mark the first time any pope has addressed a joint session of the House and Senate—he is widely expected to call for bold and decisive efforts to combat Earth’s rapidly-rising temperatures.
ClimateWire first reported Gibson’s plan to introduce the resolution this week.
Environmentalists are preparing to seize on the occasion of the papal visit, and the enthusiasm for climate action it is expected to gin up, by organizing a major climate rally on the National Mall the day of the speech on Sept. 24.
But a call for action on global warming led by Republicans is something altogether different.
Ever since the collapse of comprehensive climate legislation, which died in the Senate during President Obama’s first term, Republicans have largely shunned legislative efforts to confront global warming. Even admitting that human activity has caused temperatures to rise has become virtually off-limits among Republicans.
On the 2016 campaign trail, some Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas still deny the reality of global warming, while others such as former Sen. Rick Santorum have said that there is nothing the United States can do to make a dent in the situation.
Republican presidential contenders are unanimous in voicing opposition to President Obama’s regulations to rein in carbon emissions from power plants, a major policy initiative that the White House has taken to combat the threat of global warming.
At least some moderate Republicans have grown frustrated by what they see as their party’s silence on a pressing and urgent problem. The Environmental Defense Action Fund, the political arm for the moderate environmental organization Environmental Defense Fund, bankrolled a major ad buy last year in a bid to bolster green-minded Republicans, an attempt to turn the tide in the face of conservative inaction when it comes to climate change.
Virtually all of the House Republicans who have signed on to the soon-to-be introduced climate resolution hail from moderate or swing districts, many in the Northeastern U.S.
A number of the cosponsors are up for reelection in 2016 in moderate districts where backing a resolution in favor of climate change could help them in the race. Curbelo and Dold are both running for reelection. Reichert, Meehan, Costello, Hanna, Ros-Lehtinen, and Stefanik have not yet announced if they plan to run for reelection.
Gibson, the lead author of the resolution, and Rep. Fitzpatrick are not running for reelection.
Forty-eight percent of Republican voters prefer a candidate calling for action to tackle human-made global warming, as opposed to someone who sidesteps the issue entirely or calls climate change a hoax, according to a survey released in January by The New York Times, Stanford University, and environmental think tank Resources for the Future.