What the Deniers Giveth, They Taketh Away
I am no longer shocked, amazed, dumbfounded or even surprised by how silly members of the United States Congress behave and “legislate.” Last week, however, the U.S. Senate proved how it can take a serious issue like climate change and turn it into a perverse version of an Abbot and Costello routine. I was surprised, then dumbfounded and finally chagrined by the events, which I have deemed, Silly Senate Week, associated with the amendments that were attached to the controversial (and soon to be vetoed) Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, Senate Bill 1. In an attempt to, once and for all, expose climate deniers in our government, Climate hero Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the “hoax” amendment proclaiming that climate change is real and not a hoax. 98 Senators agreed with Senator Whitehouse, with only one Senator (and I’ll get to him a bit later) voting that climate change is a hoax.
The 98 Senators who apparently finally rejected their “I’m Not a Scientist” mantra included Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and our old friend and climate denying heavyweight champion, Senator James Inhofe; author of the best science fiction book since Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “The Greatest Hoax.” I was able to understand why Cruz, Rubio and Paul who have aspirations to reside in a home on Pennsylvania Avenue, voted the way they did. But Inhofe even offered to co-sponsor the amendment with Senator Whitehouse. Holy Frack! Enter Stage 1: Surprise.
There’s an old saying, “If it’s too good to be true, the U.S. Senate will find a way to ruin it.” Senator Inhofe quickly vindicated this saying by stating, right after his yea vote on the hoax amendment, “Man cannot change climate. The hoax is that there are some people that are so arrogant to think that the are so powerful that they can change climate.” This statement seemed to ignite a series of events that can only be described as esoterically bizarre.
Following the vote on the hoax amendment, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced an amendment declaring, “climate change is real and partly caused by human activity,” which was distinguished from the amendment then introduced by Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) which argued, “climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to it.” Both of these amendments ultimately failed to cross the 60 vote threshold for approval, but Hoeven’s amendment received 59 votes versus only 50 for Schatz’s. 15 Republicans voted in favor of Hoeven’s amendment, while only five of these senators voted in favor of Schatz’s.
The dizzying takeaway from all of this loony legislation is simply this, Republican Senators are willing to “admit” that the climate is changing; they are willing to admit that human activity may have a part in climate change, BUT, they are not willing to embrace that we’re significantly responsible. And no wonder, because to admit significant responsibility might require a change in emissions from fossil fuel production & use, as well as other contributors including grazing and meat production, industrial agriculture, fracking for methane gas and more. It all adds up to a Shakespearean tragedy or at the very least a comedy of errors. Enter Stage 2: Dumbfounded.
Unfortunately for the climate deniers, similar to oil, if you dig dip enough you will find the truth. And when it comes to why these Senators voted they way they did, the truth is just beneath the top soil. To fully understand all of the chicanery that took place, all of the gamesmanship and wordsmith theater; to understand why a lone Senator, Roger Wicker (R-Miss) voted against the hoax amendment, you just need to follow the money trail. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, of the $56 million given by Big Oil to campaigns in the most recent election cycle, a vast majority went to Republican candidates and outside interest groups favoring Republicans. Senator Wicker, who does not even represent an energy producing state, but is the new Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, apparently did not want to offend some of the biggest donors to his party. Essentially, when it comes to climate change, some Senators are more willing to believe the industry that fills their campaign coffers than science. I am continuously befuddled by the selective belief in science demonstrated by members of Congress.
Despite so many examples of the manipulation of nature by humans over centuries, even at the sub-atomic level, we are still having a debate about whether or not what humans contribute to climate change; we have lawmakers who say that it’s arrogant to believe that “man can control the climate.” These same lawmakers go to doctors, on the taxpayers dime, who fight cancer, heart disease and other ailments. How is curing disease the providence of man and science, but not climate change? And it all seems to come down to nothing more than money, money, money. Enter Stage 3: Chagrin.
We cannot allow all of the wackiness in Washington to distract us from the real issue at hand; killing the Keystone XL pipeline. As this Congress has shown us, we must remain vigilant, informed and active. That’s why we are reminding people to let their Senators know that they must sustain the President’s veto of the ill conceived Keystone XL Bill. Perhaps we will never be able to convince climate deniers of the errors of their ways. But in the meantime we can take actions to block their climate killing proposals and in two years take the actions necessary to remove them from office.