Don’t let the U.S. House Climate Solutions Caucus get your hopes up

In 2010 file photo, a wind turbine is pictured in the in front of a steaming coal power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

In 2010 file photo, a wind turbine is pictured in the in front of a steaming coal power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Environmentalists rejoiced at the announcement that some Republican legislators in Washington joined the House Climate Solutions Caucus and publicly announced their acknowledgement that climate change is real and manmade. All-in-all there are 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans on this committee.

The ones in the Philadelphia region are Republicans Rep. Patrick Meehan (7th District), Rep. Ryan Costello (6th District), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (8th District), and Democrats Rep. Brendan Boyle (13th District) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (17th District).

On closer inspection of their voting records, perhaps praise was premature. Close examination reveals that these Republicans voted against legislation that would fight climate change. So, serving on this committee, it appears, must be a typical political sleight-of-hand smoke screen or a case of the large print giveth and the small print taketh away, which is exactly what makes the electorate so fed up with government.

Meehan’s 2016 voting record reveals that out of 13 bills directly related to climate change, he voted the wrong way on 12 of them. So far in 2017, Meehan voted yes on the HR 3354 Omnibus Budget to cut $800 million from EPA; and he voted yes on the Mullin Amendment, which prohibits funds from being used to estimate the social cost of carbon.

Ryan Costello voted wrong on 10 climate-related bills and the wrong way on HR 3354 and the Mullin Amendment. Brian Fitzpatrick voted the wrong way on 13 climate-related bills and the wrong way on HR 3354 and the Mullin Amendment. This information comes from the League of Conservation Voters, which shows that the above-mentioned Democrats’ voting records are 100 percent green.

What’s crucial for the public to understand is, since the Industrial Revolution, the world has burned enough carbon to drive the planetary temperature up by 1.2 degrees Celsius. That’s dangerously close to the 1.5-degree limit that scientists say we dare not exceed. Look at the rapid increase in the number of worst weather events ever recorded. Scientists say the world can only burn another 162 billion tons of carbon to get us to the 1.5-degree level. Achieving this is a formidable challenge.

Right now, the world has 2,795 billion tons of carbon in inventory ready to burn — that’s 17 times more carbon than we can afford to burn and expect to survive. If we burn that much, it may drive the planetary temperature as high as 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rendering the planet uninhabitable for humans.

Scientists say we only have about 14 years to limit the world’s carbon emissions to 162 billion tons, or we’ll cook the planet. So, the question is, are these legislators willing to jeopardize the future of humanity by lying about their commitment to drastically reduce carbon emissions, or will they find the courage to vote to achieve this goal? Time is running out.

Richard Whiteford is a writer, environmental activist, and communications professional living in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

All climate change information and statistics come from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report or from individual climate scientists who are members of the IPCC.

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