Just when you think that the environmental conversation is going down the drain (think climate deniers in the Presidential cabinet and budget cuts designed to gut the EPA), a group of Republican Congressional members have joined forces to put forth a resolution “expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to conservative environmental stewardship.”
The action is spearheaded by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (FLA), Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY), and Rep. Ryan Costello (PA). The lawmakers were joined by fourteen other Members of Congress: Reps. Mark Amodei (NV), Don Bacon (NE), Barbara Comstock (VA), John Faso (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), John Katko (NY), Mia Love (UT), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Brian Mast (FL), Pat Meehan (PA), Tom Reed (NY), David Reichert (WA), and Mark Sanford (SC).
I read a copy of the resolution. Taking away the governmental language of “Whereas” to introduce its top points, the document was well-defined and straightforward.
The opening paragraph was clear about aligning “conservative principles” with stewardship of the environment, planning responsibly for “all market factors, and most importantly — basing “policy decisions in science and quantifiable facts on the ground.”
There is a definitive recognition of the “critical responsibility” of those in a position to make a difference, to ensure that future generations have a shot at a livable planet.
An outline of extensive ramifications of climate change are enumerated, including extreme weather, heat waves, rising sea levels, and the disruption of insect, plant, and wildlife cycles.
A specific reference was made to “human health impacts” including “elevated asthma” in children and a greater degree of mercury in fish.
I found it extremely encouraging that there was an elevation of the connection between climate disruption and national security — specifically potential political instability.
Environmental justice issues were embraced via a recognition of “vulnerable populations” being gravely impacted.
The resolution clarifies that actions “should not constrain the United States economy.” I interpreted this to mean that there is not conflict between taking actions and the fiscal well-being of the country. This was reinforced by the following statement outlining the need to “take meaningful and responsible action now to address this issue.” (The call for “economically viable” solutions may find a varying definition, but the tenor of the resolution is extremely proactive.)
I reached out to Representative Stefanik and Representative Love for feedback on their initiative. They each responded via email:
Rep. Stefanik: “I am pleased to introduce this resolution with so many of my Republican colleagues and I thank them for their support on this effort. Clean energy innovation is key to addressing the serious issue of climate change. This resolution brings together the priority of addressing the risks of climate change with the importance of protecting and creating American jobs. Innovation and clean energy are key to solving both.”
Rep. Love: “I am pleased to join with my colleagues in support of this resolution, which formally reiterates what I have previously expressed: We can simultaneously commit to responsible environmental stewardship and a strong economy. I believe that this is the conservative ideal, and I look forward to engaging with my colleagues in crafting appropriate solutions that both preserve the beauty around us and create economic opportunity.”
Scientists, faith leaders, conservative groups, the military, joined large and grassroots environmental groups, by reacting swiftly and positively to the resolution. The top takeaway was that climate disruption should not be a partisan issue.
It’s an exciting start.
On March 13, Co-Chairs of the Climate Solutions Caucus and the Safe Climate Caucus wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. They requested that he stay vigilant in advocating for America’s involvement as a leader and a stakeholder in the Paris agreement.
Let’s hope the Trump administration listens closely to his fellow Republican lawmakers who are dealing with the reality of an impending climate crisis that will affect millions of American families.
Photo: U.S. Congress