In what environmental groups hope is a major break in the almost unanimous opposition by Republicans in Congress against any climate change legislation, Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., announced Sept. 17 that he joined with 10 other Republican colleagues to recognize the reality of climate change and the need for conservative leaders in Congress to pursue policies to address it.
“All too often, the conversation about appropriate and balanced environmental stewardship gets caught up in partisan politics. Yet, this conversation is key to the preservation of our great country for generations to come, as important as ensuring we have fiscally responsible policies to secure our future,” said Gibson, who represents a largely rural and agriculturally-dependent district in Upstate New York. “For that reason, I believe the most important first step forward is recognizing that this is also a fundamentally conservative issue, and finding common ground on how to address it.”
Gibson and 10 other Republicans from across the country are introducing a resolution calling for better environmental stewardship through “economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.”
One of the Republican co-leads on this resolution, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, said: “South Florida is the frontline of climate change, where we have seen its negative impact in the form of rising sea-levels and the erosion of our coastal communities. In Miami-Dade County alone, more people live less than a mere four feet above sea level than any state in the union with the exception of Florida and Louisiana. In fact, 40% of Florida’s population is at risk of rising sea levels, posing a clear and present danger. Our goal with this resolution is to shift the debate from whether climate change is real to what we can do to mitigate its effects.”
From here, Gibson said he plans to focus efforts on achieving the goals of this resolution through a variety of public and private efforts, including:
- Expanding study of the environment, weather, and climate through a combination of private, peer-reviewed studies as well as appropriate, non-partisan oversight of government studies and publicly-funded studies;
- Modernizing antiquated energy transmission and transportation through improving electric grid reliability and efficiency, expanding the use of microgrids, and expanding infrastructure investment;
- Bringing the energy sector into the next generation, including expanding use of hydropower; increasing the potential of the wind power industry; pursuing and improving biomass energy use; promoting programs like SunShot that have already seen progress and have ifuture potential in making more efficient the harnessing of solar power; and pursuing safe and properly-regulated natural gas production and use with the goal of creating a bridge to the long term goal of energy independence with renewable energy resources; and
- Promoting investments in some of the most promising technologies, including advanced manufacturing and prototyping, nanotechnology coatings and composites, advanced energy storage and battery technology, and waste-heat-to-power systems.
Gibson said he and his colleagues have worked with a non-partisan network of faith-based, national security, environmental, business, and community organizations in developing this outline of conservative goals and policies for ensuring the proper stewardship of our environment and natural resources. Pope Francis is expected to also call for action on improved environmental stewardship to mitigate the causes and effects of changing climate during his upcoming visit to Congress.
The resolution cosponsors are:
- Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
- Rep. David Reichert (WA-8)
- Rep. Robert Dold (IL-10)
- Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22)
- Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA-7)
- Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (PA-8)
- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)
- Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-6)
- Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21)
- Rep. Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2)
Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s Legislative Director, said in a Sept. 17 statement about Gibson’s efforts: “This is a welcome step forward by Congressman Gibson and his ten Republican colleagues. We hope this coalition’s efforts spark a substantive discussion in the Republican caucus about actually acknowledging that climate disruption is caused by humans and tackling it with all the speed that is required to protect our communities and our families.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August finalized its Clean Power Plan, calling for 32% greenhouse gas reductions from existing power plants by 2030. EPA is using a previously-obscure section of the Clean Air Act as its authority to issue the Clean Power Plan, a step the Obama Administration said was needed after Congress failed to act on the issue.