Tuesday marked the first time that individuals impacted by climate change had a chance to come before Congress and tell their stories, according to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who helped co-founded the Safe Climate Caucus. Six people with personal stories and one scientist spoke as part of Waxman’s 28-member group, formed this year to raise awareness about climate change and push back on Republican opposition to new environmental rules.
“I formed the Safe Climate Caucus to end conspiracy of silence in the House of Representatives when it comes to climate change,” Waxman said. “Unfortunately many members of Congress continue to deny that climate change is even happening.”
Waxman was flanked by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
“We’re going to see more and more conflict and struggle to survive,” Moran said. “We’re not taking the issue of climate change sufficiently seriously.”
Blumenauer was more succinct, saying “the Congress is sleepwalking.”
Matt Russell, a fifth generation farmer from Iowa, was first to speak. He said that in the last five years Iowa has experienced the worst flooding and worst drought in the state’s recorded history.
“We’re getting all the wrong weather at the wrong time,” Russell said. “July was the coldest ever in Iowa and now September is the hottest. We had the worst snowstorm in two years in May and now we’re back in drought. The joke in Iowa is what month will show up in October?”
Hugh Fitzsimmons, a bison rancher and beekeeper from Texas spoke about the double impact of man-made climate change, resulting in drought, and the man-made water crisis caused by water used for hydraulic fracturing around his home near the Rio Grande. The devastating drought and heat of the summer of 2011 caused Fitzsimmons’s bison to give birth to only seven babies, rather than the usual 70 or more.
“Denial is not just a river in Egypt,” said Fitzsimmons. “In Texas oil and gas are exempt from water regulations and nobody will listen to you when you try to tell them what’s happening. It’s like the poet Gary Snyder said — nature bats last.”
Denial is, indeed, also a state of mind in the U.S. — one made manifest today by the Heartland Institute. The right-wing organization ramped up its climate denial ahead of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, which will be released next week. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), a project organized by Heartland and two other organizations, released “Climate Change Reconsidered.” The report aims to inject “balance” into the climate change debate and counter the findings of the IPCC, a group that Heartland calls biased.
But the report’s authors have some bias of their own. One lead author, Craig Idso, has called carbon pollution a “win, win, win for all of life,” and author Fred Singer has described climate change as “unequivocally good news.”
All three organizations that developed NIPCC have ties to fossil fuel companies and organizations working to spread skepticism on climate change.
“Whereas the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn of a dangerous human effect on climate, NIPCC concludes the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs,” Heartland wrote in a statement about its new report.
On a press call Tuesday, Heartland President Joseph Bast blasted the idea of a scientific consensus on climate change called climate change a “social movement,” explaining that those who believe that capitalism hurts poor people and the planet are more likely to believe in climate change, regardless of what the science says.
Heartland has been particularly virulent in their efforts to undermine supporters of climate science — last year, the group unveiled a billboard campaign in Chicago that featured the mug shot of serial killer Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”) and the words “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” The campaign spurred a strong outcry from environmental organizations and resulted in a “mass exodus” of corporate donors for Heartland, including giants like State Farm.