There are two major-party candidates in the running for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House, and both of them think the issue of climate change is best left for other countries to deal with, according to multiple news reports from a candidate forum Thursday.
At the forum, both Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney would not say whether they accept that humans are contributing to global warming. But either way, both candidates also said that it wasn’t for them to decide.
“It’s not our problem,” Casey reportedly said, adding that it was an international issue. “These other people think we’ve got a global problem, let’s see them step up.”
According to the Associated Press, Mooney echoed Casey, saying “there’s no EPA in China” to ensure the country is limiting its greenhouse gas emissions. On the contrary, China has a Ministry of Environmental Protection that works to limit emissions.
Both candidates used their stance on the United States’ responsibility to fight climate change to argue that the Environmental Protection Agency should not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. If elected, Mooney said he would “fight for legislation to defund and restrict the EPA.”
Casey is certainly correct that, at least in the immediate future, climate change is not solely America’s problem. Indeed, studies show that the countries that will be hit the hardest by climate change are the poorest — East Africa, Burma, Bangladesh and India stand to be impacted greatly by severe and unpredictable weather.
At the same time, it’s primarily America’s emissions that have caused the problems in those countries. The United States is currently world’s second-biggest carbon emitter, but has altogether emitted more greenhouse gases than any other country historically.
And while it is true that countries such as China need to also put in substantial effort for global warming policies to have real impact, America’s position as an economic leader that has contributed the most the carbon emissions necessitates that we make the first move — which is exactly what the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations on coal plants represent. As President Obama told the New Yorker a few months ago, “It’s very hard for me to get in that conversation [with China on reducing greenhouse gases] if we’re making no effort.”
Climate change is already impacting the United States, too, according to the recently released National Climate Assessment. If emissions aren’t drastically reduced, that report predicts increased drought and wildfires in the West, heavy precipitation and flooding in the East, and more severe weather in the South, among other things.
Mooney and Casey, however, also openly questioned whether climate change was primarily caused by humans, using the increasingly popular excuse that they’re not qualified to know. Mooney said that he didn’t believe that scientists had yet come to a consensus around the issue, but said the debate belongs “in the climate change community.”
Casey reportedly went a bit further on the existence of climate change, saying “something is going on,” but would not go as far as calling it a problem.
“Is it long term or not?” he said, according to the Charleston Daily Mail. “I’ll leave that up to the scientists.”
The tactic of leaving climate change “up to the scientists” has become a way for politicians to avoid taking a stance on global warming. But actual climate scientists have decried this tactic, saying multiple reports have been written by scientists and other experts specifically so that politicians could understand climate change and how it affects the country.
“Personally, I don’t think it proper for any American to use that argument,” Donald J. Wuebbles, a coordinating lead author for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 assessment report told ThinkProgress in May, adding that climate change should be “readily understood by any policymaker.”
As is stands now, peer-reviewed research shows a 97 percent consensus among scientists that global warming is real and primarily driven by humans.