Legislation in the 112th Congress Related to Global Climate Change

More than 100 bills, resolutions, and amendments focusing on climate change were introduced in the 112th Congress (2011-2012). Many more touched on energy, environment, transportation, agriculture and other areas that would have an impact on climate change. The list below, however, contains only those bills whose authors thought it was important to explicitly reference climate change or related terms, such as greenhouse gases (GHG) or carbon dioxide. (For brevity, all legislative proposals are referred to here as "bills.")

Reflecting an anti-regulatory mood on Capitol Hill, there were nearly as many proposals in the 112th Congress to block efforts to curb carbon emissions as proposals to strengthen them. And, reflecting the general state of gridlock in Congress, virtually none of the bills proposed were enacted.

A closer look:

  • 113 climate-specific bills were introduced in the 112th Congress. This compares with 263 such bills introduced in the Congress before this one, 235 in the Congress before that, and 106, 96, 80, 25, and seven, respectively, in the Congressional terms before that.
  • 57 of the bills (52 percent) supported climate action in some way. However, for the first time since the introduction of the McCain-Lieberman greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill in 2003, not a single greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill was introduced. Most took much smaller steps, such as preparing the United States to adapt to climate change or preserving voluntary greenhouse gas reduction programs in a bill that would otherwise block the Environmental Protection Agency's climate change work. The two bills that proposed a comprehensive approach to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would have established a carbon tax. (Two of the bills mentioned greenhouse gases without clearly supporting or hindering climate action.)
  • 55 bills would have blocked or hindered climate action – 40 of which would have prohibited or hindered regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily by preventing EPA from regulating under the Clean Air Act. Four of these passed the House, with no prospects for movement through the Senate. For its part, the Senate voted on four bills to prevent, delay or modify EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, all of which failed.

Perhaps the most significant law enacted by this Congress addressing climate change is not on the list below because it does not mention the words "climate change" at all – the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program. Among other things, the bill, signed into law by President Obama, seeks to ensure that "the best available science regarding future changes in sea levels, precipitation, and intensity of hurricanes" are factored into future calculations of flood risk. Our blog notes that the bill is a good first step toward comprehensive reform that will bring the program back to solvency.

In addition, a bill that would combine House and Senate energy efficiency measures passed the Senate on its last day before the elections and was signed by President Obama in December 2012.

The bills, resolutions, and amendments of the 112th Congress dealing with climate change are divided into the following categories: