WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2015 -- Escalating their three-front assault on the Obama administration’s climate agenda, House and Senate Republicans are attacking:
- President Obama’s pledge to contribute $3 billion to support developing countries’ climate programs,
- EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) to limit coal power plant carbon emissions, and,
- Administration claims that after record 2014 global warming, 2015 is on track to be even warmer.
The CPP is considered a second key to success in Paris. The Environmental Defense Fund calls it “the centerpiece of America’s effort to do our part in the global race to prevent climate catastrophe.”
The CPP is designed to help achieve the administration’s goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This U.S. goal is the basis for getting other countries to implement equally significant carbon reductions. Accordingly, the prospects for international action will be seriously undermined if either Congress or the lawsuits challenging the CPP succeed in overturning the initiative.
In the House Science Committee’s International Climate Treaty hearing last week, Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, took direct aim at the CPP.
“The so-called Clean Power Plan will cost billions of dollars, cause financial hardship for American families, and diminish the competitiveness of American industry around the world, all with no significant benefit to climate change,” he said. That charge responds directly to a New York University report forecasting “at least $3.1 trillion to $10 trillion by 2050” in potential U.S. benefits from an international climate agreement.
Smith also charged that in their “alarmism” claims about global warming, government scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the hiatus in global temperature increases.” He also blasted attempts “to link extreme weather events to climate change,” insisting that there have been “no increased tornadoes, no increased hurricanes, no increased droughts or floods.”
Smith’s dismissal of climate concerns hasn’t stopped NOAA. Last week NOAA released its Global Analysis report for 2015 through October, asserting that:
- “October 2015 average global land and ocean temperature was the highest for October since records began in 1880. “
- “The first 10 months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces, at 0.86 degrees centigrade (1.55 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th Century average, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.12°C (0.22°F).”
Global Year to Date Temperature Anomalies
Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for Oct. 2015
On the other side of the Capitol last week, senators voted 52-46 in two largely party-line votes to reject the CPP, declaring that the plan “shall have no force or effect.”
Breaking party ranks, Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mark Kirk of Illinois voted with Democrats against shutting down the CPP. Offsetting the three GOP defections were Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia who voted to eliminate the CPP. Republican presidential candidates Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Florida’s Marco Rubio did not vote.
If the House joins the Senate by voting this week to end the CPP, the joint resolutions would go to President Obama for his signature. But the White House has already promised a veto, explaining that ending the CPP “would undermine the public health protections of the Clean Air Act and stop critical U.S. efforts to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.”
The White House contends that ending the CPP would “block progress towards cleaner energy, eliminating public health and other benefits of up to $54 billion per year by 2030, including thousands fewer premature deaths from air pollution and tens of thousands of fewer childhood asthma attacks each year.” The White House insists that “the need to act, and to act quickly, to mitigate climate change impacts on American communities, has never been more clear.”
On the funding side, 37 GOP senators led by John Barrasso of Wyoming and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma sent a letter to Obama last week stating that other countries in the Paris talks must understand that “Congress ultimately holds the power of the purse” and that “Congress will not allow U.S. taxpayer dollars to go to the Green Climate Fund until the forthcoming international climate agreement is submitted to the Senate for its constitutional advice and consent.”The administration’s position, meanwhile, is that Obama can sign a Paris agreement as an executive action, without the need for a treaty that would be subject to Senate ratification. Last week’s GOP letter to Obama states that the Republican senators “support international dialogue on global environmental problems.” But the letter insists that “any agreement with binding timetables and targets must be brought before Congress for approval.”
In the Senate Environment Committee’s hearing on Examining the International Climate Negotiations last week, Barrasso emphasized the importance of Senate ratification. “If there is one message that I would like to send to the international community ahead of the international climate change conference, it is this: Without Senate approval, there will be no money,” Barrasso said. “Any agreement reached in Paris that contains legally binding requirements on the American people must come to the Senate for a vote. This isn’t only the right thing to do, it is also what the Constitution requires.”
In his House hearing on the Paris talks, Lamar Smith explained that “There is a reason the President chose to bypass Congress in order to negotiate a climate deal on his own” and charged that “The President’s plan often times gives control of U.S. energy policy to unelected United Nations officials.” Smith concluded that despite the clear constitutional requirement for the Senate to vote on any agreement signed in Paris, Obama plans to ignore Congress and the Constitution “because he knows the Senate will not ratify it.”
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