Congress

Agreeing on the problem, if not the solution

Despite the very different views of the majority and minority parties in the Senate, there was in fact a fair degree of agreement among the witnesses at today’s hearing on climate science and local adaptation.

During the climate science portion of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, both the majority and minority witnesses agreed that the Earth has warmed over the past 120 years. With the recent publication of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project by former skeptic Richard Muller, there are now four (NOAA, NASA and Hadley are the others) major global temperature records that are in agreement that the Earth has warmed 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years.

Business and government start preparing for climate impacts

Today’s Senate hearing isn’t just about the science of climate change. It’s also about the actions that need to be taken now to adapt to the reality of a changing climate. Businesses and governments each have a critical role to play in building resilient communities and economies.

Business-as-usual is already being interrupted by extreme heat, historic drought, record-setting wildfires, and flooding. Events from water shortages to floods are disrupting the supply chains for such companies as Honda, Toyota, Kraft, Nestle and MillerCoors. By the end of 2011, the United States had recorded more billion-dollar disasters than it did during all of the 1980s, totaling about $55 billion in losses.

Senate gets back to climate science

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing tomorrow called “Update on the Latest Climate Change Science and Local Adaptation Measures.” This is the first Senate hearing focused directly on climate science in the 112th Congress, and we hope it won’t be the last. Climate change is happening, the news from peer-reviewed science is increasingly daunting, and the public needs to hear what credible scientists are learning about the risks and potential solutions.

Climate Debate in Congress

Nearly 230 bills focusing specifically on climate change have been introduced in the 113th Congress (2013-2014). Many more bills touched on energy, environment, transportation, agriculture and other areas that could have an impact on or be affected by climate change. The list below, however, contains for the most part only those bills whose authors explicitly reference climate change or related terms, such as greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide. (For brevity, all legislative proposals, including resolutions and amendments, are referred to here as "bills.")

While little climate-related legislation passed, this Congress introduced twice as many climate-related bills than in the previous Congress. A closer look reveals:

  • 229 climate-specific bills were introduced, surpassing the 113 introduced during the 112th Congress (2011-2012), and coming close to the 235 of the 110th Congress (2008-2009).
  • 141 of the bills (62 percent) support climate action in some way.
  • 48 bills are intended to build resilience to climate impacts, compared with nine introduced in the previous Congress.
  • 25 bills supporting climate action have bipartisan co-sponsorship. Nine of them promote energy efficiency.
  • 57 bills, 11 of them bipartisan, would block or hinder EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Four such bills passed the House, but none passed the Senate.
  • 16 bills supporting climate action were written by Republicans, while nine bills opposing climate action were written by Democrats, showing that while there are exceptions, climate issues continue to largely fall along partisan lines.
  • 16 bills would block or hinder federal agencies from using the social cost of carbon in federal rulemaking.
  • 3 bills seek to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.

Congress voted on 45 of these bills, most of which passed the House of Representatives and would curb EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory authority. Only three bills loosely related to climate change (though not directly referencing it) were passed and signed into law: the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act and the Hurricane Sandy Relief bills to cope with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath; and Public Law 113-89, which reverses many of the provisions of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, and was enacted into law despite being opposed by climate action and taxpayer advocates.

The bills, resolutions, and amendments of the 113th Congress dealing with climate change are divided into the following categories:

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