Nader: Capitol Hill needs substantive climate change debate

Dissatisfaction with Democrats’ and Obama’s handling of climate change on the campaign trail is widespread among environmentalists. The issue has seen a limited profile this year despite severe drought, significant wildfires, abnormal storms and record-high temperatures.

The issue is a tricky topic for the administration. It has had to deflect GOP attacks that new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greenhouse gas emissions regulations are intentionally targeting fossil fuels, which Republicans say is hurting the economy.

To that end, the GOP-led House will vote on a package of bills this week titled “Stop the War on Coal.” The bill would reduce EPA rules viewed as harmful to the coal industry.

Nader said the problems start at the top of the nation’s political pyramid, but that the aversion to climate change discussions is endemic throughout.

“You don’t have a political infrastructure on Capitol Hill and in many state legislatures,” he said. “They’re not even criticizing nuclear power the way some of them were. They’re cutting quid pro quo deals. They’re not talking about a carbon tax.”

Nader also recalled trying to set up a global warming debate between climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and outspoken climate advocate Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Nader said that despite Inhofe’s eagerness, he could not get Markey to commit to the match.

Markey’s office told The Hill on Wednesday that it had offered to debate the issue with Inhofe in July.

Matt Dempsey, Republican spokesman for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which Inhofe is the ranking member, said Nader was “well aware” of the discussions between the two lawmakers on setting a debate date.

 “We will leave the dispute between Congressman Markey and Mr. Nader,” Dempsey told The Hill.