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Guest Thinkers

Climate Inaction Committee

Congress is unlikely to pass any serious climate change legislation now that the Republicans have retaken the House. If you doubt that, consider the leading candidates to replace Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) at least recognizes that greenhouse gases are a problem and supports investments in alternative energy. He would probably be environmentalists’ first choice for committee chair, which is why he’s also a long shot to take over the committee. And even Upton opposes a cap-and-trade scheme setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions—which was once a Republican idea—on the grounds that it would impose too much of a burden on business.

Then there’s Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Barton, the current ranking Republican member of the committee, has been chair of the committee before and would need a waiver from the Republican leadership to chair it again. But he has been campaigning hard against the relatively moderate Upton, portraying him as a “part-time Republican.” Barton, of course, is the Republican who famously apologized to BP, saying it was “a tragedy of the first proportion” not that hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, but that BP had been the subject of a “shakedown” by the Obama administration. Barton’s main contributions to the climate change policy have been what The Washington Post described as a witch hunt against climate scientists, and a call for the repeal of energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.

Finally, there’s Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). Shimkus opposes a cap-and-trade scheme as too damaging to the coal industry. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea to limit the emission of greenhouse gases anyway. After all, he says, “if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”—a question that led the National Wildlife Foundation to wonder if he could seriously believe that plants depend on automobile exhaust and factory emissions to survive. And Shimkus doesn’t think it’s possible for us to seriously damage the environment, because God promised Noah that “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”

NASA, meanwhile, reports that through the first nine months 2010 has been the hottest year on record. It looks like they’re going get hotter for a while yet.


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