Humanity spews out other greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, and at least one Republican senator is trying to do something about it.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) reintroduced their bipartisan Super Pollutants Act on Wednesday.
The bill is targeted at reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), which include refrigerants, methane, and so-called black carbon, which comes largely from diesel engines, cook stoves, and open fires. These compounds break down significantly faster than CO2, on the order of days for black carbon and up to 12 years for methane. But they can also be hundreds or thousands of times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
SLCPs are responsible for 40 percent of global warming to date, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
The legislation takes a business approach to reducing SLCPs, by allowing government agencies to work with the private sector on the development and adoptions of policies and technologies that would reduce SLCP emissions.
“Studies show that fast action to reduce SLCPs in the atmosphere could cut the rate of sea level rise by 25 percent, almost halve the rate of temperature rise, prevent two million premature deaths each year, and avoid crop losses of over 30 million tons annually,” the senators said in a statement.
The bill was first introduced in 2014, where it did not get out of committee. Its reintroduction was timed to coincide with the pope’s Congressional address on Thursday.
The pope has been an outspoken advocate for addressing climate change, which he frames as a moral issue, and his visit has galvanized American Catholics. Broadly, the American public supports action on curbing the human-caused effects of climate change, according to polls.
Collins is a Catholic and is one of the few congressional Republicans who has supported federal efforts to curb climate change.
“In the Senate there are a couple of Republicans who have taken steps — diverged from the lockstep orthodoxy of climate denial — and Senator Collins is one of them,” David Doniger, director of the Climate & Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told ThinkProgress.
“The vast majority of the American people support steps to curb the [pollutants] that are causing the unjust effects of climate change,” Doniger said.
Recently, 11 Republicans in the House introduced a resolution calling for action on climate change. The majority of the sponsors of that bill are also Catholic.
Doniger said that during this election cycle, climate change has received more focus than in previous years.
“The profile of this issue is rising to a much more visible level, not just becuase of the pope, but in part,” Doniger said, speaking for the NRDC Action Fund. He pointed out that during the second Republican debate, candidates were specifically asked about climate change — something that did not happen in 2012.
“Climate change is emerging into a serious political issue, at the national level at least, that presidential candidates can’t hide from anymore,” Doniger said.