The seeds of change
“There are Republicans that believe the climate is changing and humans have a role to play,” Christine Todd Whitman said Wednesday. “They just need some political cover.”
In other words, good luck supporting proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions if you’re a Republican in Congress. There’s too much political risk. Against this stark reality, is it any wonder that Congress does so little to address climate change?
Whitman, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, joined three other former EPA chiefs who served in Republican administrations to address Congress about the risks of climate change and what to do about it.
The four EPA chiefs were invited by Democrats as part of a strategy to undermine Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s environmental proposals. Collectively, they played the role of the adults in the room, urging obdurate lawmakers to support a new EPA plan to cut carbon dioxide pollution from power plants as a reasonable response to a pressing issue.
Whitman noted a “scientific consensus” around the issue of climate change. “We also need a political consensus.”
William Ruckelshaus, the nation’s first EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon, said global warming is no different than other serious environmental issues the country has successfully addressed — industrial pollution, dangerous pesticides or water contamination.
“Inherent in all of these problems was uncertain science and powerful economic interests resisting controls,” he said, adding that “predicted economic and social calamity” failed to take place.
It’s unlikely the four EPA chiefs will suddenly alter the trajectory of the climate-change debate. For now, they’re voices in the wilderness. But a message from influential Republicans on climate change certainly holds more sway than one from Democrats. With debate at a standstill, that’s nothing to sneeze at.