Protecting our children and future generations from the impacts of extreme weather like droughts, floods and hurricanes caused by climate change is not as politically partisan as some would have you believe. Recent polls have shown that 70 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem, and a vast majority of the American public favors government action to address it .
In fact, many Republican voters identify as environmentalists and conservationists, and hold environmental stewardship as a core value. But many of their representatives in Congress, in particular the leadership that now has a majority in the U.S. Senate, do not espouse the same core values. Instead, they represent the dirty energy and big polluter interests that fund their political campaign -- interests that are woefully out of touch with overwhelming public support to stop climate change.
On his first day, new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proudly proclaimed his anti-environmental agenda by pronouncing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as his top target. He bragged that he will "do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in," and that he feels a "deep responsibility" to stop the EPA's Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest climate polluters in the country.
When the United States and China recently struck an historic, game-changing deal to reduce their carbon pollution and slow climate change, McConnell said he was "particularly distressed."
While Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) were also decrying the deal, China was busy leading the globe in wind and solar energy investment. In 2013 alone, China invested $229 billion in clean energy, and now has several regional carbon reduction programs underway. Meanwhile, right after the Congressional elections many right-wing groups launched a concerted effort to try to prevent the production tax credit for wind energy from being part of a tax break package during the lame duck session meant to extend a variety of expired or expiring business tax breaks.
As the two largest world superpowers worked out this unprecedented climate deal, Sen. McConnell told reporters that under his direction, the Senate will use the appropriations process to try to cut off the EPA's funding on climate change. If he does this, Sen. McConnell will be working against the nearly 8 million comments that have been written to the EPA over the last few years demanding climate pollution limits on power plants.
Before this deal was struck, these Congressional climate deniers used China's inaction as a reason to block any U.S. progress in addressing climate change. That disingenuous excuse is now moot.
The truth is, Sen. McConnell, who has taken more than $3.6 million from dirty energy industries in his career, has a lifetime record of voting for environmental or public health protections only seven percent of the time.
And Sen. Inhofe, the incoming chair of the Senate committee on the environment, who wrote the book on climate-change denial, is the recipient of $1.6 million in career contributions from billionaire oil and gas interests (more than $489,000 alone in this cycle).
With their longstanding allies now in Senate leadership, big polluters will seek to load up must-pass spending bills with anti-environmental riders and pass stand alone bills to block or overturn hard-fought safeguards.
But the whole world -- including China now -- is stacking up against the myopic climate deniers in Congress.
The American people have in the past and will in the future stand up to push back against the onslaught of underhanded political maneuvers by those who would sacrifice our health and environment for campaign contributions, ideological gain or political theater. Anyone who cares about healthy communities and a livable planet -- and that is the majority of us -- must get ready to hold their Representatives and Senators accountable.