With more than 300 votes targeting the Environmental Protection Agency, de-funding clean energy, and promoting unfettered use of fossil fuels, the current House of Representatives has been dubbed the most anti-environmental House in history.
And if Republicans gain control of the Senate, the same record will define that body too. That’s the warning from Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senate candidate running against incumbent Republican Scott Brown.
In a debate last night between the two candidates, Warren responded to a question about the existence of climate change. Her answer: the election is about far more than policy leadership on the issue from a Massachusetts senator, it’s about determining the future of how the entire Senate acts on climate change.
“Sen. Brown has been going around the country, talking to people, saying, you’ve got to contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate. And he’s right. … What that would mean is if the Republicans take over control of the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man that has called global warming ‘a hoax.’ In fact, that’s the title of his book.”
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is one of the fiercest climate deniers in Congress. Along with making factually incorrect claims about climate change, Inhofe has also attempted to roll back EPA clean air regulations and stop the military from investing in clean energy technologies. He’s also the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works, a body that deals with a wide range of environmental and infrastructure issues.
Under a GOP-controlled Senate, Inhofe would become Chairman and play a much more prominent role in dictating energy and climate policy.
The Washington Post called the move from Warren a “powerful card”:
Toward the end of the debate, Warren played a powerful card — but also one she arguably should have played earlier and more often. She noted that a vote for Brown is a vote for a Republican Senate majority and explained that if Republicans take over, Sen. Inhofe — who has sought to refute the notion of man made climate change — would become the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s a striking argument to make in a blue state — and one that Warren could have made more often during the hour-long back-and-forth. She mentioned Mitt Romney and Senate Republicans, but only sparingly throughout the hour.
But polls show this type of “striking argument” could have an impact beyond blue states like Massachusetts.
A recent report from George Mason University analyzing a range of surveys shows that talking about climate action and environmental issues is a positive for candidates. From the the report:
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.
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.
Talking about climate is a winning issue for candidates. And the more that pro-environmental candidates highlight the differences between themselves and the most extreme politicians like James Inhofe, the better they’ll be able to distinguish themselves.