CREDIT: AP/Charlie Neibergall
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Wednesday that “climate change occurs no matter what,” but that the EPA’s recent efforts to reduce emissions from existing power plants are “outside of the confines of the law,” and “an excuse to grow government, raise taxes and slow down economic growth.”
Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, Rep. Ryan said that he would argue that the “federal government, with all its tax and regulatory schemes” can’t do anything about climate change. He said that what climate regulations “end up doing is making the U.S. economy less competitive.”
The EPA’s proposed rules to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants do not fall outside the confines of the law but rather adhere strictly to the wording and intent of the Clean Air Act while at the same time attempt to accommodate state-level flexibility. Congress passed the law, the President is enforcing it, and the courts have upheld it. Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act requires the EPA to develop regulations for “air pollution which may endanger public health or welfare.” In 2007 and again in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon pollution fits under that category.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy recently said that she wouldn’t put forth a rule that “doesn’t respect the Clean Air Act and isn’t legally solid,” and that she is confident the regulations will survive any legal challenge.
Ryan is merely the latest Republican in Congress to calculate that disparaging the Administration’s efforts to confront climate change will play well in election year politics. With a split Congress unable to move basic legislation, let alone anything that would require actual cooperation across the aisle, the Obama Administration has focused on mitigation and adaptation efforts at the executive level through their Climate Action Plan.
This week Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) blocked a Senate resolution simply stating that climate change is real before receiving a highly informative rebuttal from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Earlier this summer another potential Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), said he doesn’t agree with the notion that “there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.”
This climate defeatist tact is a part of the Republican’s overall strategy this year — yesterday the House voted to sue President Obama for overstepping his legal authority, i.e. trying to get stuff done. The strategy also runs counter to international efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Investment in clean energy globally is at its highest point in several years and major economies like India and China are looking ramp up even further in the near term. China is also setting up pilot carbon reduction plans and Mexico recently hinted at possibly considering a carbon scheme of their own.
However, fossil fuel invested politicians in Canada and Australia have also managed to regress the conversation from how to make progress to how to maintain the status quo. In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb at an alarming rate and the world continues to see record high temperatures.