How Will GOP Gains Affect Climate Policy?

Bad news for environmentalists, scientists, coast-dwellers

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With Tea Party-backed Republicans set to take over the House of Representatives in January and to narrow their minority in the Senate, how will this new legislative realty change U.S. policy towards climate change, the environment, and energy? Democrats gave up on climate change legislation efforts this summer after a political debacle that featured strong conservative pressure on moderate Republicans, a White House failure to lead, and Senate inaction. Given how the U.S. handled climate during those two years of vast Democratic majorities, what can we expect now that Republicans are on the rise?

  • House GOP to Harass EPA, Scientists  The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert forecasts, "The recent election represents a new low. For the past two decades, the United States has been officially committed to avoiding 'dangerous' climate change. One Administration after another—Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama—has reaffirmed this commitment, even as they all have failed to live up to it. House Republicans and their Tea Party allies reject even the idea of concern. Not content merely to ignore the science, they have decided to go after the scientists. Before the election, congressional Republicans had talked of eliminating the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Why, after all, have a panel on energy independence and global warming if you don’t believe in either?"
  • How We in the Media Have Failed on Climate  The Washington Independent's Andrew Restuccia sighs, "There’s no doubt that reporters (myself included) are under-serving their readers when it comes to a substantive discussion of climate science. Because many of us in Washington cover energy and the environment through the lens of politics, climate science often gets short shrift. But climate science and climate politics don’t have to be separate beats. In fact, they must not be. ... But one line in every story about the 'scientific consensus on climate change' is not enough. Increasingly, readers don’t trust reporters, so it’s important to show them the research and then explain it. I haven’t been doing that enough and will work to do it more."
  • EPA Can't Solve This Alone  Grist's David Roberts warns, "Climate hawks shouldn't expect much from these upcoming regulations. They won't be a substitute for the climate bill. Not even close. Here's the basic problem the EPA faces: The best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources -- primarily power plants -- is to approach the situation holistically: shut down a bunch of dirty power plants, build a bunch of clean power plants, and push hard on efficiency to cover the cost differential and protect ratepayers. Legislation could have done that. EPA can't. EPA can't make anybody build anything."
  • The Imminent Danger of Rising Sea Levels  The New York Times' Justin Gillis reports, "Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century. But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica. As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over."
  • Tough to Make Congress Sacrifice Now Against Future Threats  Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias writes, "It’s very politically challenging to get members of congress to take action now to forestall the climate disaster that’s looming in the future. ... In Asia where they’re poor, the cost of adjusting to the new higher sea level will mostly express itself in terms of massive refugee flows, flooding, starvation, violence, and death. Here in the United States we have the resources to conduct major population evacuations. So think repeated iterations of Hurricane Katrina rather than mass starvation."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.