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Senators concerned as Trump official disputes UN climate change warning

The Trump administration on Sunday again appeared at odds with lawmakers over the severity of climate change and how it should be addressed in wake of a United Nations report warning of potential dire consequences.

The report, which warns that the world is on a path toward catastrophic climate change if greenhouse gas emissions aren't cut dramatically by 2030, was a key focus of the Sunday news shows, with top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow pushing back against it.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, were quick to call for action, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) acknowledged the scientific consensus that humans are the chief contributor to climate change.

The report, made public last week by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says the world needs to decrease emissions by 45 percent by 2030 to avoid catastrophic consequences.

Kudlow disputed the report during an appearance on ABC's "This Week," saying that he believes "they overestimate" and questioning the degree to which humans have contributed to climate change.

"I'm just saying do we know precisely, and I mean worth modeling, how much of it is man-made, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rainforest and other issues. I think we're still exploring all of that," he said.

"I don't think we should panic," Kudlow added. "I don't think there's an imminent disaster coming, but I think we should look at this in a level-headed and analytic way."

Kudlow's skepticism over the severity of global climate change falls in line with the views of President Trump, who has previously called climate change a "hoax" and last week appeared to question the accuracy of the U.N. report.

Sanders, also appearing on ABC's "This Week," slammed Kudlow over his comments, calling them "so irresponsible, so dangerous."

"It's just hard to believe that a leading government official could make them," the Vermont senator said. "We have 12 years to substantially cut the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, or this planet, our country, the rest of the world, is going to suffer irreversible damage."

Concern stemming from the report crossed the political aisle on Sunday, with Flake saying on "This Week" that the report is "pretty dire." He also said he believes Republicans who have downplayed the scientific consensus on climate change are going in the wrong direction and called on the GOP to take a leading role in confronting the issue.

"I hope that we can move along with the rest of the world and address this," Flake said. "There are things that we can do and should do and I think Republicans need to be at the forefront if we want to keep our place and keep our seats."

Van Hollen, a Democratic senator from Maryland, also called on Republicans to address the issue, saying on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the GOP needs to "stop making things worse." 

Van Hollen pointed to the release of the U.N. report and Hurricane Michael, which made landfall last week in Florida and devastated the Florida Panhandle, as evidence of climate change's severity.

"And at the same you have the Trump administration and a lot of Republicans who just want to put their head in the sands. They don't want to hear the information," Van Hollen said.

"This administration and Republicans in Congress are actually rolling back auto emission standards, rolling back clean power plant rules. Let's stop making things worse and then we definitely need to take action to make things better," he added.

But Rubio raised doubts over what lawmakers should do in response to climate change, even as he said he recognizes the scientific consensus that human activity is the main driver of the issue.

When asked on "Face the Nation" whether he believes humans are the chief contributor to climate change, the Florida senator said it's his view that "that's what a lot of scientists say."

He added, however, that policies that are considered in response to climate change need to be weighed against "the public interest and other topics."

"If we're going to have that debate about whether certain laws should be passed in order to alleviate what some scientists or a lot of scientists are saying is the cause of this, that has to be balanced with the public interest and other topics like the economy and the like," he said.