To the honorable Senator Pat Toomey:
Climate-science denial has spread like a cancer through the halls of Capitol Hill, metastasizing in every major organ of Republican legislature.
This allergy to fact-based data analysis stands to threaten public health, national security, and ultimately the status quo of the planet’s very habitability, with what can only be described as a “pro-pollution agenda” being advanced by the formidable oil, gas and coal lobbies.
Indeed, the GOP has had a checkered history when it comes to environmentalism, but always seemed capable of balancing competing interests, both fighting for corporations in the energy sector seeking to maximize profitability while simultaneously issuing reasonable regulatory oversight, limiting chemical waste deemed harmful to the air and water.
Tragically, that ability to blend free-market-solutions and sensible industry guidelines has become a lost legislative art-form amongst conservatives.
But “conservatism” and “conservationism” were not always mutually exclusive concepts.
Theodore Roosevelt led a Republican administration that believed in protecting natural and wildlife sanctuaries from human pollution – one can only guess how he’d feel about oil drilling in the Alaskan wildlife reserve or “hydro-fracking” in pristine state park systems, as we now enjoy here in Pennsylvania.
In the 1970’s, President Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as signing the Clean Air Act into law.
Nowadays, the EPA is derided by House Republicans as though it was a foreign-born terrorist organization conspiring to eliminate American jobs.
In the 1980’s, President Reagan signed the Montreal protocol, banning the use of ozone-depleting CFCs, and the first President Bush signed legislation limiting power plants from contributing to the scourge of “acid rain”. The second President Bush addressed automotive exhaust and fuel efficiency standards. Today, Speaker Boehner couldn’t champion any of those ideas through the House GOP caucus, and wouldn’t waste time attempting to.
As recently as 2008, the Republicans were able to nominate Senator John McCain to run for the White House, despite his “maverick” history of support for cap-and-trade legislation.
But by 2012, we would see Mitt Romney shamefully renounce his own history of supporting regional cap-and-trade agreements due to its newfound political toxicity in Washington. Tim Pawlenty made apologies for his own environmental-friendly endeavors as Governor. And who could forget the Newt Gingrich ad where he and Nancy Pelosi sat side-by-side addressing climate change – a TV spot his spokesman referred to as “the biggest mistake of his four decades in politics”.
The partisan bickering amongst lawmakers has gotten so ideologically divisive that Republicans outside of Congress now find themselves shouting in at legislators to cease and desist from politicizing what should be a bipartisan concern worthy of immediate redress.
Last week, a panel of four ex-EPA administrators, all of whom served Republican presidents, testified before a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee, aiming to convince their fellow conservatives of the very real threats posed by our changing climate.
William Ruckelshaus, EPA chief under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, denounced the notion that there even exists a “legitimate debate over the fact of the Earth’s warming or over man’s contribution”.
“We like to speak of American exceptionalism,” Ruckelshaus said. “If we want to be truly exceptional, then we should begin the difficult task of leading the world away from the unacceptable effects of our increasing appetites for fossil fuels before it’s too late.”
When asked about President Obama’s recent revisions to EPA regulations of coal-fired plant-emissions, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman assured her fellow Republicans on the committee, “the issue has been settled… EPA does have the authority. The law says so and the Supreme Court has said so twice”.
The four former administrators had co-authored an editorial last August suggesting that “a market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that it is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington.”
On the heels of their testimony, a similar display of “conservatives leading conservatives”, a collective of sixteen military leaders from varying branches of the armed forces, issued a report lambasting Congressional “polarization” over climate science, lamenting that lawmakers have apparently “receded from the arena of informed public discourse and debate”.
“Political posturing and budgetary woes cannot be allowed to inhibit discussion and debate over what so many believe to be a salient national security concern for our nation,” they wrote. “Time and tide wait for no one.”
In early June, you co-signed a letter to President Obama along with 40 other Senate Republicans scolding his proposed rule-changes for coal-fired power plants.
So I ask you plainly, what are we to do about carbon emissions exacerbating atmospheric and oceanic warming trends?
The climate is changing, and presumably, you know this.
We desperately need your immediate and actionable leadership.
The partisan-based political intransigence over this issue must stop.