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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

GOP Senators and Representatives Band Together to Combat Climate Change and
Its Denial

By Phil Plait

Over the past few years I’ve hammered pretty hard at Republicans in Congress for being anti-science because … well, because, as a party, they are.

But there’s dissension in the ranks, and I’m very, very pleased to hear it. And it’s over the single most important topic in the politicization of science: climate change.

There have been a few voices in opposition to the staunch GOP plank of head-in-the-sandism, but just a few. Lindsey Graham, for one, and Jon Huntsman for another (though Huntsman is a former governor of Utah, and not in Congress). I’ve also mentioned Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, before, who signed on with President Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan.

But now it looks like they’re getting organized. In the Senate, Ayotte, along with Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee; Graham; and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, has formed a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group, the purpose of which is to “focus on ways we can protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation. The group will meet periodically to discuss general energy and environmental issues and exchange ideas about potential legislation.”

That is fantastic news! I also like that they are paying attention to “market-based reforms” when it comes to energy. Alternative energy sources (notably wind and solar) are getting cheaper very quickly, and in many places are on equal footing with the energy generation cost for fossil fuels. It makes good economic sense to invest in these sources, and that’s a powerful argument when it comes to the conservative party … assuming that fossil fuel money won’t always present a roadblock to the ones in power.

I have a lot of hope in people like Ayotte, who has a history of bucking her party when it comes to climate. Good on her.

There’s hopeful news on the House side, too. Eleven GOP representatives put forth a resolution (H. Res. 424), “Expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to conservative environmental stewardship.”

The resolution reads pretty well to my eye, stating for example, that “it is a conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base our policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground.”

Nice. And true. Mind you, this is a resolution, not a bill, so it won’t be law or anything like that. But given how notoriously anti-science so many GOP representatives are—like the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee—this resolution is very positive, very hopeful. As I read it, I almost felt like it was an act of defiance. It wasn’t nailed to the door of the Rayburn House Office Building, but its point is clear.

It’s too bad that the only two GOP presidential candidates making any sense at all on climate—Graham and George Pataki—are polling so low their numbers are indistinguishable from zero. I still think Donald Trump and Ben Carson will flame out, leaving Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz as the actual contender after the primaries … and both of them are deniers. Of the two, Cruz is more of a flat-out denier, but Rubio is no prize either.

The members of the GOP who accept reality have a long, hard struggle in front of them. And while I’m sure I’d disagree with them over many issues, global warming is one of if not the most important issue of our time. I will support them on this, and I am very, very happy to see them taking on this mantle.

I would very much love to see this no longer be a partisan issue. This affects all of us, and the future of our species for several hundred years at least. It’s time everyone in power took it seriously.

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