The US Senate inches slowly towards accepting climate change reality

The US Senate which boasts, despite all the evidence, that it is the world’s greatest deliberative body, voted 50-49 for cloture on an amendment that stated that “climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it”. Since the cloture rules require 60 votes, the amendment did not pass. All the Democrats voted in favor of it except minority leader Harry Reid, probably for tactical reasons. Five Republicans voted in favor of Schatz’s amendment.

The amendment had been offered up by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) during the debate on the Keystone XL pipeline. To no one’s surprise, Sen. James Inhofe once again stated that the whole thing is an “immense hoax”. But within this nonsense, there is a perceptible shift caused by the sustained scientific consensus that has pretty much persuaded the rest of the world. From initially denying that climate change is happening at all, almost all Republican senators now accept that climate change is real and their opposition has shifted to whether human activity is contributing it. A subset of Republicans even accept that humans are contributing to it but are just not a major cause.

The Senate, with Inhofe’s support, did pass a separate measure saying that climate change is real — just not that human activity is a cause. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., was the only senator to vote against it.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urged her colleagues to vote against the finding that climate change is significantly caused by humans.

Murkowski, chairwoman of the energy committee, has expressed worries about the impact of climate change on her state. But she said on the Senate floor that the fact the measure included the word “significantly” was enough to merit voting against it.

Some Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have dodged the issue of whether humans are causing climate change, often using the talking point that “I’m not a scientist.”

President Barack Obama mocked the “I’m not a scientist” line in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.

“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,” Obama said.

The Republican position on climate change reminds me of the way that the Catholic Church responds to things like evolution. They slowly inch their way towards acceptance of the scientific consensus, while strenuously denying that they are shifting positions at all.

So can be viewed as an encouraging, if modest, shift.


  1. says

    They slowly inch their way towards acceptance of the scientific consensus, while strenuously denying that they are shifting positions at all.

    Don’t buy it. It’s a way of deflecting the issue. By appearing to accept reality, they can say they are reality-based, until you turn your back on them.

    Christians have been pulling that shit for centuries. Some of them will retreat into a muddy pile of woo woo about the god of agnosticism of which they make no claims of knowledge. But when you turn your back on them, they are talking about the bearded god-guy in the chair, who reads your mind and hates gays.

  2. janiceintoronto says

    I hate that it is a possibility that you guys are going to elect one of a handful of moronic cretins to lead your country and be responsible for the nuclear football.

    You’re scaring the rest of the world, and it doesn’t do much for your image.

    How I wish there was a “planet B” to go to…

  3. ramen says

    That’s not fair to morons and cretins, a hard-working and reasonable group of people. I’m serious, actually.

  4. says

    responsible for the nuclear football

    Speaking of… Did you know that the ‘key’ for it was 8 zeroes from the Reagan administration onward?

    The idea of Permissive Action Link (PAL) on nuclear weapons was such a good idea, but it disempowered political leaders ‘too much’ so it was consistently bypassed. When a new president came into office, through Reagan, they got a briefing about how the whole command/control system worked. Reagan was horrified. Clinton didn’t give a fuck, and never took the briefing. I don’t want to think about W.*

    (* Source: Schlosser, “Command and Control” plus scuttlebutt from a friend who was in the presidential communications detail under Reagan)

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