U.S. President Donald Trump may be on the record calling climate change a “hoax,” but the GOP is not necessarily united on this issue. Although climate science programs have been a top target of the administration, this week 17 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives expressed their commitment to “conservative environmental stewardship.”
Their resolution was submitted on Wednesday by two-term U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents upstate New York. In a nod to how important the Adirondack Mountains are to local economies within New York’s 21st District, Stefanik said she and her 16 GOP cohorts “understand that protecting our environment plays an important role in promoting economic growth and opportunity.”
The lawmakers acknowledged the science supporting climate change as well as the risks it imposes on agriculture, wildlife and public health. And they also insisted that both market-based and regulatory measures are needed to reduce any future impact from manmade climate change.
Also supporting the agreement is Carlos Curbelo of Florida, another representative in his second term whose district includes parts of Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys – an area at long-term risk of sea-level rise.
In a letter he and three other GOP lawmakers sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this week, Curbelo urged the Trump administration to keep America's commitments to the 2015 global climate agreement reached at the COP21 talks in Paris.
“Stepping away from the agreement would mean stepping away from the immense opportunities that these international investments afford American businesses and research institutions,” Curbelo wrote.
The resolution Stefanik proposed is non-binding. And it's identical to another resolution proposed in 2015 during the previous Congress. That proposal also had 17 co-sponsors, and went nowhere after it was introduced on the House floor. Many of this current resolution’s co-sponsors have dubious environmental records, including Rep. Mia Love of Utah’s 4th district. Although Love publicly rebuked Trump before announcing she would support him last October, the Utah lawmaker also took issue with former President Barack Obama -- specifically his designation of an area of her state, saying it amounted to Obama “behaving more like a dictator.”
Environmental groups offered tempered support for the Republican resolution. In an emailed statement to TriplePundit, Sam Adams of the World Resources Institute said: “It is encouraging that Republican members of Congress put forward this resolution to take measures to combat climate change that also grow the country’s economy.”
Ken Kimmel, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, also expressed cautious optimism toward the resolution. “It shows that these Republican lawmakers are not in a state of denial about this key issue,” Kimmel said in a public statement. “And I hope this sizable group of responsible leaders will have an impact on votes in Congress.”
The resolution comes a week after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he does not believe carbon emissions are a leading cause of climate change. And among the many budget cuts and policy changes being proposed by the White House include the dismantling of the agency’s Clean Power Plan.
Nevertheless, if these GOP House members are serious about their resolution, they have plenty of economic cases to back up their agenda. Renewables such as solar and wind power continue to scale and decrease in cost as more private companies such as UPS invest in these technologies. The U.S. solar industry also claims 1 out of 50 new American jobs created last year in its sector, as clean energy dominated new power generation across the country during 2016.
Image credit: U.S. Navy
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.