The Senate voted on three climate change measures on Wednesday. The first, stating that climate change is real, was passed by a near-unanimous 98-1. The next two measures, both holding humans and fossil fuel emissions responsible for climate change, were defeated on the floor.
The only reason the issue of climate change made it to a vote was because Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – the Congressional champion of climate action – attached it to legislation authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The amendment was added to the bill “to express the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.” The language was likely written to oppose the new head of the Senate Environment Committee and noted science-denier Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who has called global warming “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.”
However, in what could have been called a surprise upset if not for his subsequent statements, Inhofe volunteered to co-sponsor Whitehouse’s amendment.
“Man cannot change climate,” Inhofe then added. “The hoax is that there are some people that are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change climate.”
The Senate ultimately approved the amendment by a vote of 98-1, with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) the single “no” vote.
“I’m hoping that after many years of darkness and blockade that this can be a first little vote beam of light through the wall that will allow us to at least start having an honest conversation about what carbon pollution is doing to our climate and to our oceans,” said Sen. Whitehouse.
However, this vote was then followed by a vote on an amendment that stated not only is climate change real but that humans significantly contribute to it. This amendment was opposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who took exception to the amendment’s use of the word “significantly.” The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), needed 60 votes to pass. It failed 50-49.
A third amendment, sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican and sponsor of the KXL bill, stated that climate change is influenced by human activity but that the KXL will have no significant impact on the climate (which, relative to the planet’s growing emissions, is true). The amendment managed to snag 15 Republican “yes” votes, but failed 59-40 – with even Hoeven voting against it.
For both climate change supporters and climate change deniers, these votes may ultimately be pointless. President Obama has already stated several times that he will veto any legislation that approves construction of the Keystone pipeline. And if he vetoes the KXL, he will also veto the Senate’s acknowledgment of climate change (which may explain why Republicans delivered nearly unanimous consent).
Also, as The Guardian points out, the Senate already acknowledged climate change. In 2005.
“We are worse off than 2005,” Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University who writes about the climate denial movement, told The Guardian. “The resolution saying that anthropogenic climate change is real and we need to act passed in 2005, and failed in 2015. A similar resolution failed today. 10 years, more certain science, less political will.”
For more insight into the Republican party’s denial, Grist points out a bit of Orwellian move magic. In their “factcheck” video of President Obama’s recent state of the union address, the editor leaves out the President’s most stinging indictment of Republicans’ climate denial.
In attacking the party’s frequent use of the phrase “I’m not a scientist” to dodge the “Do you believe in climate change” question, Obama said this:
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.”
You can see it here:
In the Republicans’ version of the speech, the video cuts that section out. In the video below, skip to 43:25.