A big GOP frontman seems to have changed his tune on climate change.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, admitted in an Fox News interview on Sunday that human activity has likely caused some climate changes.
This is a big step, though in the same segment Thune expressed negative feelings on the US-China climate deal reached last week, and promoted the Keystone XL pipeline.
As a member of a party often noted for its representatives’ unwillingness to cooperate with national climate policy or even for their outright climate denialism, Thune’s first remark was a solid acknowledgment that human-caused climate change is occurring.
“Well, look, climate change is occurring, it’s always occurring, Chris,” Thune said in the interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “There are a number of factors that contribute to that, including human activity. The question is, what are we going to do about it and at what cost?”
It’s a notable statement from a Republican leader — stating that the climate is changing and there is likely a human factor at play. It’s also significant that he asked the question many of his colleagues haven’t dared to: “What will we do about it?”
However, the other side of the sword came down when Thune said last week’s US — China climate deal, “was a bad deal.”
Thune went on to express his concern that the deal constituted “all pain and no gain for the American people,” and would result in increased utility costs for American citizens, adding that “I don’t expect that we’re going to ever see China agree to it in the end.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, was interviewed as well and expressed an entirely different opinion. “In order to reach that 2030 target, the Chinese are going to have to build a clean energy portfolio that is as big as the entire US energy fleet,” he said. “So, between now and 2030, they’re going to build an immense amount of clean energy. That’s actually going to be good for American suppliers into those projects. A lot of this is American design.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader-elect, commented that carbon emission regulations with “wreaking havoc” around the country, but Whitehouse retorted, “In Rhode Island, we’re seeing the havoc from the carbon pollution. We’re seeing the havoc along our coastlines, houses falling into the sea. We’re seeing the havoc with fishermen going into the sea and finding fish that their parents and grandparents never saw before.”
Earlier in the same news segment, Thune also reiterated his support for the Keystone pipeline, which has been hotly protested by activists worried about its effects on the environment.
The pipeline, if approved, would stretch from Alberta, Canada, down to the Gulf of Mexico, transporting crude oil from Canada’s oil sands. Experts argue that producing crude from oil sands emits 17 per cent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil drilling. A bill for the construction of the pipeline passed in the House of Representatives on Friday and will go to the Senate next.
Watch the segment in full here:
A GOP Problem
While Thune’s change in tone is likely to be seen as a win for climate change believers, many other GOP senators still take no stance on human-caused climate change, and others outright deny it. Earlier this month, Mother Jones found that nearly all of the 11 Republican senators-elect did not believe humans caused climate change, had no concrete opinion on the subject, or had a history of waffling between stances.
The problem isn’t just in Congress. ThinkProgress reported earlier this year that “Fifteen out of twenty-nine sitting Republican governors deny climate science despite the overwhelming level of scientific consensus, the enormous cost to taxpayers, and the critical place governors occupy in implementing new limits on carbon pollution.”
Here’s what that looks like:
In addition, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), an outspoken climate sceptic, is reclaiming his position as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, much to the dismay of climate change activists around the country.
Interestingly, Republican representatives’ climate stances are not always supported by their constituents. A national survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents found that 52 per cent believe climate change is happening, and only a third agree with the Republican Party’s position on climate change.
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