Baby steps for the US senate on climate change

The US senate voted by a margin of 98-1 that climate change is real and not a hoax

In a surprise, the Senate’s leading skeptic of climate science, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), voted in favor of the amendment — but made clear he doesn’t believe humans are the primary driver of climate change.

The GOP “yes” votes also included three of the GOP’s leading contenders for the White House: Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).

I am not sure how well this will go down with the crazy base of the Republican party that thinks that a winter blizzard disproves global warming and that climate change is a vast conspiracy by scientists eager to get grant funding. But these baby steps are in the right direction.

We should not get too excited by this vote however. Republicans voted down another measure that said that “climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change”. So basically they are willing to concede that climate change is happening but not that human activity is contributing to it, thus letting them off the hook for changing those activities. But even here, five Republicans voted in favor of this: Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), with Graham’s vote the one that surprises me the most.

On Thursday, senator Bernie Sanders will introduce another measure that says that climate change is “already causing severe problems all over the world, we have a window of opportunity and we have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency.” That is likely to be defeated.

All these amendments are being put forward by those who are concerned about climate change, and seem to be designed to put Republicans on the record as to where they stand on the issue. The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline that Republicans support was used as the vehicle to achieve this. This pipeline seems to have become a flashpoint between environmentalists and the oil industry, one of those issues that somehow become far more important than it objectively warrants.

Whenever Republicans are confronted by the fact that their base requires them to adopt an anti-science stance, they imply that they agree with the base but when challenged to justify their position in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus, use the “I am not a scientist” evasion to shut down the line of questioning.

In his state of the union speech on Tuesday, president Obama poked fun at this tactic, saying:

“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at Nasa, and Noaa, and at our major universities.”

That must have stung because the Republican live stream of Obama’s speech put out by speaker John Boehner cut out that bit. They also cut out the bit where Obama adds “The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

It is quite extraordinary to edit out parts of the speech when it purports to be the full thing. The speaker’s office has not responded to requests for an explanation.


  1. samgardner says

    So, the Repubs feel they can enact legislation to combat climate change as long as they don’t admit why that change is happening?

  2. WhiteHatLurker says

    I see why there is some interest in this, but … it really doesn’t matter. A government vote could have as easily declared the moon is green cheese. Just because this vote came down on the obvious side, it doesn’t endorse these legislations of physics.

    So none of the US senators are scientists. Interesting, when European politicos are pursuing PhD degrees (it seems they’re often fraudulently gained).

  3. weaver says

    The vote in the Senate dosn’t actually demonstrate any improvement, because those against science employed weasel tactics to enable a “yes” vote while still denying science -- they asserted they voted “yes” because “the climate is always changing.” So, you see, they can still claim that there is no global warming going on NOW and be consistent with this vote.

    A second measure to state that humans were the cause to a significant degree was voted down on nearly party lines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *