By Alex Laplaza
The partisan debate on anthropogenic climate change is now permeating the Senate debate on the fiscal 2017 energy and water spending bill (S.Amdt. 3801 to H.R. 2028). Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) filed a bipartisan amendment that asserts climate change is a reality caused by human activity.
The amendment (S.A. 3864) states:
Congress finds that:
- Climate change is real.
- Human activity contributes to climate change.
- Climate change is already affecting the people of the United States and poses an increasing risk to:
- The health of the people of the United States.
- The security, economy, and infrastructure of the United States
- Over 180 countries, including China, India, and Brazil, have made commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, which creates opportunities for workers of the United States and innovative private industries to benefit from global clean energy markets.
It is the sense of Congress that:
- The United States should be a world leader in addressing climate change.
- Congress is best positioned to address the policies that leave for future generations a prosperous economy and healthy environment.
- Congress has a responsibility to take actions that reduce emissions and combat climate change.
- Congress should support research and development to bolster clean energy technology.
The bipartisan amendment is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, and Bob Portman of Ohio. Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are also co-sponsors.
The language of this amendment sets it apart from a trio of similar amendments that the Senate voted on in January 2015. The first, an amendment by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to Keystone XL legislation, was approved 98-1. This amendment states that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” However, in order to gain bipartisan support, the amendment stopped short of attributing climate change to or correlating it with man-made activities. Even Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the senate’s leading skeptic of mainstream climate science, approved the amendment, arguing the global “climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will.”
The second amendment differed in this respect. Introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the language stated, “Climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” The Schatz amendment fell ten votes short (50-49) of the 60 needed to pass.
A third, sponsored by Senator Joh Hoeven (R-ND), eased the wording surrounding anthropogenic climate change, stating that man-made greenhouse gas emissions have some impact on global warming, but that this impact is not “significant.” The amendment fell one vote shy of the 60-vote threshold, with Senator Hoeven ultimately voting against it to prevent it from derailing the broader bill.
The rejection of the two very similar amendments reveals the significance of wording. Many GOP senators stated that the word “significantly” stopped them from voting for the Schatz amendment. Graham’s amendment differs – it omits the controversial wording and also argues that the United States should be a world leader in addressing climate change. The latter assertion is particularly timely, with Secretary of State John Kerry having just last week joined a record 175 countries in signing the Paris Agreement.
Graham and the bipartisan amendment’s other backers believe it is stronger than the previous two similar amendments that Republicans rejected last January. Senator Whitehouse, sponsor of the first amendment, posited, “The statement about climate change, I think, is clearer and stronger than anything that’s passed so far. That was the purpose. The more people we get, the stronger and more accurate the language can become, the better off we’ll be and the stronger a signal it sends that there are some senators who might actually be willing to legislate in a bipartisan manner.”
For more information, contact Alex Laplaza at firstname.lastname@example.org.