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Rep. Shea-Porter: There Are ‘Too Many Climate Deniers In Congress’

By Stephen Lacey  

"Rep. Shea-Porter: There Are ‘Too Many Climate Deniers In Congress’"

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New analysis finds “taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters”

As polls continue to show that talking about climate change is a politically beneficial issue among registered voters, some candidates are responding.

Looking to get her seat in Congress back, former New Hampshire Democratic Representative Carol Shea-Porter is the most recent politician to make climate change part of her campaign. In a recent letter to supporters, Shea-Porter lambasted “climate change deniers in Congress” who are spreading misinformation and blocking action:

America and the world have had quite an awful time the past few years with wild weather–drought, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wind, heat. Many people in our country have died in these natural disasters, and New Hampshire has had its share of trouble. While we use the word “natural,” most people now believe that these disasters are a result of global warming, also called climate change. However, there are still too many climate change deniers in Congress, and this is preventing the United States from moving forward, even as time is running out to slow down climate change.

On this issue, Shea-Porter has backing from many Republicans in the state. New Hampshire has an active group of Republican climate hawks who are working to get their party to seriously address the problem. When presidential hopefuls were flocking to the state during primary season, two prominent Republicans penned an op-ed calling on the candidates to address climate during their campaigns:

There is little doubt in the scientific and political community that climate change is the environmental challenge of our time. The effects of climate change are real, measurable, and requires strong presidential leadership to bring about real solutions.

It is a mistake to view climate change, or conservation issues in general, through a partisan lens. A recent poll of New Hampshire voters conducted by the Mellman Group found that over 70 percent of Republican primary voters see global warming as a serious threat.

And these findings are backed up nationwide. A new report from George Mason University analyzing recent surveys of registered voters shows that talking about climate action is a positive for candidates.

According to a March survey from George Mason, 55 percent of voters said they will consider candidates’ positions on climate change in upcoming elections. The survey also found that independent voters lean far more toward climate action, with 68 percent saying we should take medium or large-scale action to address the problem.

Most importantly, talking about climate change is not likely to lose a candidate votes.

According to a 2010 poll from Stanford University, Republicans said they would not change their attitudes about a particular politician based upon statements made about climate change or “green” issues.

As a recent poll from the Pew Research Center found, the only voters likely to see talking about climate change and clean energy as a negative are very conservative Tea Party males — many of whom would never vote for a moderate candidate to begin with.

Researchers at George Mason University summed up the trend in their recent analysis:

The short answer is that – at the national level and among ten key swing states – taking a proclimate stand appears to benefit candidates more than hurt them with registered voters. Of course, the political dynamics in any given district may be an exception to this pattern, but it is important to note that the pattern is similar at both the national and swing-state scales.

The trend is clear: talking about climate change and raising public awareness of the issue isn’t just a moral obligation, it’s also politically beneficial. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to understand this when he delivered a major speech on climate at the opening of his National Clean Energy Summit two weeks ago.

Here’s the rest of Shea-Porter’s letter to voters:

After years of arguing about whether we were experiencing climate change as a result of our human activities, the evidence is pretty convincing to most scientists at this point. Most agree it is from burning fossil fuels. Seth Borenstein, an AP science writer, reported that Richard Muller, a “prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming”, conducted a two-year study to see if the earth was heating up. While he did not study the cause, his conclusion was that the earth was rapidly heating up. This was huge news in the climate skeptic industry, whose ranks grow smaller every day.

Consider the evidence for just this summer. The heat has been tormenting people. American farmers are experiencing a drought disaster. There are wild storms across the country. Greenland has just experienced a huge ice melt. Christine Roberts of The New York Daily News wrote that, “The ice sheet that blankets Greenland has melted at an astonishing rate this summer, stunning NASA scientists and leaving many wondering what will happen next. Nearly 97% of Greenland’s surface ice sheet thawed during a four day period in July – more than it ever has in the last 30 years, NASA satellite data shows.”

Extreme weather and climate change are tied together, and scientists have collected a lot of data to show this. Reuters environmental correspondent Alister Doyle just reported that “A study this month, for instance, showed that greenhouse gas emissions had raised the chances of the severe heat wave in Texas in 2011 and unusual heat in Britain in late 2011.” Doyle says that evidence that we will continue to have severe weather where we live might help experts to plan for the costs associated with it, and to find ways to deal with climate change.

Maybe. But first, we need our policy makers-Congress-to finally acknowledge climate change and stop stalling on finding solutions. We have too many members who refuse to admit there is climate change, or that the federal government has a role to play in stopping it. For example, our Congressman in New Hampshire’s First District, Frank Guinta, told the Raymond Tea Party that the federal government has no role to play in fixing global warming.

Congressman Guinta is not alone in trying to block any corrective action. The military has been very concerned about climate change and access to fuel, and is now using some biofuels. Some senators are fighting this on the grounds that it could cost more than traditional fuels. This is discouraging, because scientists tell us we need to act quickly now to change our dependence, and there is also a national security issue here. We must break our dependence on oil for environmental and security reasons, and we must do it now.

I believe there should be an Apollo-type program to address these issues, advance renewable energy, and slow down climate change. But our current Congress took 27 votes to block action to address climate change in 2011, and 94% of the Republican members voted to block any action. If Americans want to fix this climate change problem, they will first need to fix Congress in November.

Of course, just talking about climate change doesn’t get us action. But at a time when our President — the man with the largest megaphone in the country — refuses to talk about the problem, creating a rhetorical drumbeat is one way to get the issue back on the national priority list.

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16 Responses to Rep. Shea-Porter: There Are ‘Too Many Climate Deniers In Congress’

  1. Carol Perry says:

    Nice piece. Just wanted to mention that Carol Shea-Porter has been calling for an Apollo-type program since 2006.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Apollo is no longer sufficient. It must be a war-time sort of operation, as was kick-started immediately after Pearl Harbor (the old, 1941, one)by FDR. You blow over a trillion a year on ‘defence’. Just half might be enough, with other countries also acting.

  2. Paul Klinkman says:

    Can we even imagine having a political litmus test where hundreds of political candidates must deny science or else face some petty bully’s consequences?

  3. Tami Kennedy says:

    It’s sad that it is taking some noticeable extreme events in close succession to start swinging the tide. Talking science is often interpreted as white noise. There is still sufficient opposition, well funded, that needed action will be slow. Both major parties now are talking the ’100 year’ model for natural gas in our future. Taking action on coal within US doesn’t impact the transfer of market to China, India or other country.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Global Warming and the Meaning of Doom

    The public is numbed by all the bad news, and in place of sensible solutions, we witness the folly of political polarization. You can’t believe in climate change and be a good conservative. This departure from fact-based reality is only part of the problem.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/global-warming-doom-meaning_b_1772802.html

    • prokaryotes says:

      Planetary Boundaries in light of actions from the Human Population:

      Human life isn’t set apart from life on earth.

      We must live in balance with Nature.

      Consumerism isn’t unlimited and doesn’t lead to happiness.

      Toxic pollution harms life and cannot be justified.

      As a conscious species, humans must be stewards of the ecology.

      • prokaryotes says:

        The US Congress is not considering the environmental constants in decision making. But ought to do this because of actions we already are committed to ecocide, dubbed the Anthropocene. We threaten the very survival of our Civilization/Species with not reacting to the warnings from the overwhelming majority of Scientist (Climate Consensus).

        If we do not act today, it will be to late to preserve a viable/habitable climate state for generations to come.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          The morally insane fraction of humanity has chosen auto-genocide, and I now believe that the decision has been deliberate, driven by unbridled hatred of others. The continuing fanatic denialism and concerted obstructionism leads me to this sobering conclusion, after years of rejecting it as just too horrific to fully contemplate.

      • Ken Barrows says:

        So true. So why do many on this site think an 800 page bill and energy efficiency is all we need?

  5. BillD says:

    I think that it’s great that at least some Congressmen (or Congresswomen) are making climate change a major part of their campaigns and platforms. Current progress and realistic hopes are quite discouraging. However, if a substantial majority of Americans could agree that this is an extraordinary problem and we actually undertook “an Apollo type program” this would be very exciting and uplifting. We would be making a strong effort, not losing the war by doing almost nothing.

  6. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Vote and make it count.

  7. Leif says:

    Gandhi said that the seven deadly sins were “politics without principal, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.”

    I do not believe a just person could give Western Capitalism a passing grade for any of those transgression’s.

    Same battle different times. More urgency, bigger stakes.

    Death here,
    Death there,
    The current times have death to spare.

    Go Solar, Resistance is Fatal…

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    Climate change is a political winner, but it’s still way down the list of voter priorities. That’s because the fossil fuel companies are manipulating the public dialogue, and have bribed Congress.

    We must figure out a way to break through here.

  9. Peter Capen says:

    While it is certainly true that too many have been elected to Congress who continue to be steadfast “deniers” of global warming and the science behind it, why did voters cast their ballots for these people? Polls may show that a majority of the public articulates growing concern about the issue and wants politicians to do something constructive to address it. But that concern seems not yet to have translated into changes in the substance of the campaigns, much less who is eventually elected to office. In fact, the issue has been all but absent in both the Obama and Romney campaigns thus far. It is fine and good for former New Hampshire Democratic Representative Carol Shea-Porter to call attention to the climate deniers in Congress. And I quite agree that the issue should not be viewed through a “partisan” lens. But saying that is meaningless if the voters of either party and those they choose to elect fail to act to put the issue of global warming front and center on the national agenda. Talk is cheap. There has been enough of that. Now it is time to act. Years have already been wasted on needless political delay and inaction, and the consequences of that failure are becoming more apparent with each day that passes. Every candidate now should be forced by all voters to address the issue of global warming and what measures should be enacted to seriously begin to deal with it. Failing that, the electorate has no one to blame but itself for the catastrophic surprises headed our way as the planet continues to heat up.

  10. Jim C. says:

    I think there’s an even larger denial at work in America and much of the world. It’s the whole notion that the human population and economy can GROW forever on the finite planet, and that endless repayment of mountain debt is a sustainable way to live.

    Growthism is a huge factor in preventing reductions in fossil fuel usage. Keeping economies and populations growing requires ever-increasing amounts of energy, and fossil fuels are still the cheapest route, despite a peaking of global conventional oil production in 2006.

    When you think about it, global warming is largely a population problem; more people burning more fossil fuels and negating efficiency gains. If the human population were significantly smaller we might have been able to burn hydrocarbons without overloading the atmosphere. The least we can do is stop chasing the mindless goal of perpetual growth and blindly increasing the burden on all natural systems.