Senate panel Democrats bash climate change deniers
‘There is a new normal of new extremes and we have to be prepared for it,’ says Whitehouse. | AP Photo
Senate Democrats used an emotionally charged hearing Thursday on the effects of Hurricane Sandy to make an aggressive attack on climate change deniers in and out of Congress.
At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing featuring sometimes tearful reports from lawmakers representing East Coast states, some panel Democrats suggested putting customary congressional collegiality on the back burner to push more forcefully for mitigating climate change.
“There is a new normal of new extremes and we have to be prepared for it,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said. “And the reason we have this new normal of new extremes is because global climate change is happening and is real. And we’ve tolerated the deniers for far too long in this body.”
Whitehouse criticized “a rear-guard action in this building led by polluters” against taking action on climate change.
“But we have to face the fact that the deniers are wrong. They are just plain dead wrong,” he said. “And we have to deal with that, and I think some of the courtesies that we have given to one another collegially really have to yield to the fact that some of the things that are being said in the Senate, and occasionally regrettably in this committee chamber, are just plain wrong.”
Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) applauded Whitehouse’s remarks.
“The clock is ticking and Hurricane Sandy has shown us all what the scientists sitting right in this room [said] the day I got the gavel, … and they told us exactly what would happen and it’s all happening,” Boxer said. “And you can close your eyes and cover your ears and put a pillow over your head. But anyone with a heartbeat and a pulse can tell things are changing. And you are right and we’re going to do whatever we can.”
Whitehouse’s and Boxer’s remarks came after the lone Republican on the panel who attended — incoming ranking member David Vitter (R-La.) — had left. Current ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who labels the entire concept of climate change a “hoax,” did not attend.
The hearing featured damage reports from nine Senate Democrats, seven House Democrats and three Republicans representing areas in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut that were most damaged by the storm.
“What we’re doing here is we’re making a historic record of this storm,” Boxer said. “Because personally, I think it’s a turning point in our approach to climate change. I hope it is.”
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) — one of the three House Republicans who testified at the hearing — cautioned against lumping the broader, complex debate over climate change with the need to quickly address the infrastructure shortcomings that Sandy exposed.
“I think that distracts us from the important task at hand, which is hardening infrastructure,” Harris told POLITICO after he testified. “And we don’t need distractions because we don’t have unlimited resources or assets anymore. We have to be surgical in where we designate the spending of our assets.”