Republican EPA chiefs try (and fail) to convince Senate GOP that global warming is real

The former administrators urged Congress to take climate action

Topics: EPA, Senate Republicans, power plant rules, climate change denialism, climate skeptics, ,

Republican EPA chiefs try (and fail) to convince Senate GOP that global warming is realSen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

There’s no clearer indication of how thoroughly the current Republican Party has been blinded by partisan politics than this: Wednesday, four former EPA chiefs — who served under Reagan, Nixon and both Bushes — appeared before the Senate to try to convince their fellow GOPers that climate change is happening, and of the need to take action.

They couldn’t do it.

“This should not be a partisan issue,” William Ruckelshaus, who served under Nixon and Reagan, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, ”and public demand for doing something may be able to break it apart.” (A number of recent polls found that the majority of Americans support regulating carbon from power plants.)

“There are a lot of Republicans that do believe that the climate is changing and humans play a role in that,” added Christine Todd Whitman, who lead the EPA under George W. Bush, in a separate interview. ”They just need some cover. And if they hear from the public that this is an issue of importance to them … you’re going to find more and more of them speaking out.”

Lee M. Thomas (Reagan) and William K. Reilly (George H.W. Bush) also appeared before the committee; the four officials together penned an Op-Ed for the New York Times last year in which they asserted that “there is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts” of climate change and insisted that “the costs of inaction are undeniable.” At the hearing, they voiced their support for the EPA’s proposed power plant rules,

But the response they got from the Republicans in power was just more of the same old denial, as Kate Sheppard at the Huffington Post reports:

During the hearing, the subcommittee’s Republicans raised a range of challenges to the EPA rules. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) argued that the rules would have “serious economic consequences” while providing “no measurable impact on climate change.” He also said he’s “frustrated” by the “cartoonish” and “outlandish” claims that proponents of climate action make to dismiss critics of the science. Vitter has previously called evidence cited to support climate change “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) criticized “expensive, big-government, left-wing climate policies.” Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) accused the EPA of trying to “force Americans to live out the president’s green dream.” Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) challenged the idea that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

“I would say CO2 is a different kettle of fish,” said Sessions. “It’s plant food. It’s not a pollutant in any normal definition.”

…Although they engaged with their witnesses, Republican subcommittee members mostly ignored the former EPA administrators.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email

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