In this week’s New York Times, Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said this about Representative Akin’s outrageous comments about legitimate rape and a woman’s mythical ability to block pregnancies: “What is very disturbing to me is that people like Mr. Akin who have postulated this secret mechanism for avoiding pregnancy have developed their own make-believe world of science based on entirely self-serving beliefs of convenience or just ignorance.”
Dr. Blumenthal has this exactly right and, unfortunately, the center of power within the Republican Party seems to be on a determined path to phony science. And it isn’t just limited to women’s health: it extends to many other issues, especially climate change.
The simple fact is that our planet is getting warmer. Dr. James Hansen first warned of this in 1988. In the years since, study after study has reaffirmed his initial findings. And in those same years, the official position of the Republican Party has shifted to denying that global climate change is real.
Scientists have found that climate change has loaded the weather dice, so extreme conditions – such as hotter temperatures, droughts, and heavy precipitation—all are becoming more likely.
Americans across the nation are starting to suffer the effects. From heat waves to drought, from epic floods to raging forest fires, from failed crops to rising seas and eroding coastlines, this is what climate change looks like.
If we want to give our children the same opportunities we’ve had, there is no other choice. We must respond to the challenge of climate change by reducing carbon pollution to slow further warming and by adapting to the warming that is already locked in.
Responding to climate change is not just a technical and economic challenge. It is also a political challenge.
I know because I’ve fought for clean air for over 30 years. I led the efforts in the House to strengthen the Clean Air Act in 1990. The resulting Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are arguably the most successful environmental law ever adopted. Air pollution has been slashed while our economy has grown. And the air pollution control industry has taken off – becoming a major job creator and an export industry.
I introduced the first bill to require reductions in carbon pollution in 1992. And I authored the first comprehensive clean energy and climate bill to pass either branch of Congress -- the American Clean Energy and Security Act – which the House passed in 2009.
In my work, one thing has become absolutely clear: for Congress to rise to the challenge of climate change, the denial, obstruction and do-nothing nature of Congressional Republicans has to end.
When I became Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009, I made tackling climate change my first order of business. The first hearing I held was with leaders from environmental groups and industry who supported action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. At that hearing, I set an ambitious schedule for developing effective legislation based on the science.
Early on, I reached out to the Republicans on the Committee to try to forge a bipartisan approach. My approach has always been pragmatic. I rely on science and the facts. I reach across ideological and partisan lines to craft laws that have the political support to endure. From my previous work on the Committee, I knew I could work effectively with Republicans as long as we could agree that there was a problem worth solving.
Unfortunately, the Committee’s lead Republican told me he simply didn’t believe in climate change. He made it clear that counter to all the scientific evidence, he didn’t believe humans were playing a role in climate change and that he would work against any solution to the problem.
Nevertheless, I worked with all willing members from across the political spectrum on the legislation. Over the next five months, we developed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. This comprehensive clean energy and climate policy would have cut emissions by over 80% by 2050 and positioned the United States to lead other nations in making similar emissions reductions.
In response, the House Republican leadership lined up the Republicans to oppose action on climate change. When the legislation was brought to the House floor, just eight Republicans supported it.
Doing nothing at all would be irresponsible, so I even suggested that we move forward on the Republican proposal of a clean energy standard. But the committee Republicans instead chose to introduce and pass legislation to deny climate change science and to repeal any authority to address climate change.
As this legislation moved to the House floor, I offered an amendment that simply recognized the reality of climate change by adding the following to the bill:
Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.
Yet in a stunning denial of the scientific reality, all but one House Republican voted this amendment down.
The House Republicans went on to accumulate the worst environmental record of any Congress in history. The House has voted 47 times to block action to address climate change, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.
I continue to work to make progress. As significant new reports and developments have occurred, I have urged the Republicans at least to hold hearings so that members could evaluate the information from these scientific studies.
The United States became the greatest country on earth by paying attention to facts and leading the way on science. We can’t afford to be frightened into backward policies on important issues, whether its rape and pregnancy or the trends in global warming. It is now clear that the Republican Party we have known for decades has fundamentally changed, and we won’t be able to make progress and deal with new challenges if Republicans control Congress and the White House. I urge you to do all you can to join with me in supporting policy based on fact, not fantasy, and finally dealing with the urgency of climate change.