Bicameral Task Force Tackles Climate Change

It’s only March, and already the push back against environmental concerns is evident. Superstorm Sandy is old news, except for those still picking up the pieces of disaster.

At the forefront of bringing awareness to all things green is Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who serves as a ranking Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In 2011, I wrote about the online database he developed, which tracked the extent of anti-environmentalist votes passed by the 112th Congress.

In January 2013, Waxman released a statement on the National Climate Assessment draft report. He noted, “The findings in the report are a three-alarm fire.”

It’s not just an opinion. On January 13, 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that temperatures were above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012.

Spearheading an effort to get the 113th Congress off on the right foot, Waxman, in conjunction with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), announced the formation of a bicameral (House and Senate) Task Force on Climate Change. The stated goal was to educate colleagues and Americans about the “magnitude of the problem and the urgency of the threat.”

The first week in February, the House Democrats (who comprise the minority on the House and Energy Committee), presented three amendments to the Committee. They proposed hearing testimony from renowned experts in the scientific community on up-to-date information about climate change. All Republican members of the Committee voted it down.

Encouraged by President Obama’s strong comments about the importance of climate change in his State of the Union address, Democratic members of the House (now numbering 25) formed the Safe Climate Caucus in February. The initiative was a stalwart commitment to the amplification of climate change.

Waxman and Whitehouse began their outreach by contacting more than 300 businesses and organizations to get feedback on what approaches could be implemented by the federal government to address the issue. In addition, they wrote to 70 Inspectors General within Federal Government, requesting input on what each agency, government corporation, or independent establishment could tackle to confront the growing threat of climate change. Letters went out across the board, from the CIA to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Members of the caucus have been speaking daily to address the importance of climate change. Below are some highlights:

Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) read into the record a bipartisan letter from the Partnership for a Secure America, which urged immediate international action on preventing and mitigating climate change. Among those who signed were Olympia J. Snowe, Former Secretary of State George Schultz, and Gen. Wesley Clarke. (Video)

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) articulated Congress’ obligation to act on clean energy policies. (Video)

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) stated, “Republican skepticism of science has delayed action for far too long, but it is not too late to stop the worst effects.” (Video)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reported on an Oregon State University study published which found that global temperatures would rise. (Video)

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) called on Congress to develop a long-term strategy to take on the challenge of climate change. (Video)

On March 15, Waxman and Ranking Member Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) sent a letter to Chairmen Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), requesting a specific hearing with scientists and top experts on the need for action to address climate change. They believed that the scope of previous testimony had been limited. Waxman and Rush wrote, “While the Committee has provided a venue for regulated entities to complain about regulations to curb greenhouse gases, we have not held any hearings on recent scientific reports and technical analyses that explain why it is so important that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s a difficult path, especially when top Republicans continue to deny climate change. Some comments have included the following:

From Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), “The science is not settled and the science is actually going the other way.”

From Rep. Bill Cassidy  M.D. (R-LA) on the cause of climate change, “It could just be a shift on the axis.”

From Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, “The Earth will end only when God declares it is time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”

I contacted Rep. Waxman for a comment on the whole situation. He responded by e-mail with the following:

“The President has called on Congress, both in his Inaugural Address and the State of the Union, to pursue a solution on climate change.  Republicans in Congress refuse to acknowledge that climate change is occurring, repeatedly voting to block legislation or any action on climate change and denying dozens of requests to hear from scientists on the facts.  Every time we miss an opportunity to reduce our carbon pollution, it becomes less likely that we will be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.  We’ve seen many examples of extreme weather: searing droughts, raging wildfires, floods, and superstorms.  And this may be mild compared to what our children and grandchildren may face in the future.  We face a historic challenge, and we cannot afford to wait to take action.”

The American public needs to proactively support the efforts of Waxman and Whitehouse, and the Task Force on Climate Change, by demanding that their elected representatives generate ideas, share proposals, and coordinate efforts on climate change.

Options are quickly running out.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force

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