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.