Dems tie climate skeptics to tobacco, lead backers

Two Democratic lawmakers held a briefing Thursday to argue that climate change skeptics use similar arguments and tactics to those who believed that tobacco and lead are not harmful.

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (D-R.I.) and Rep. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanCurrent, former lawmakers celebrate release of new book on Jack Brooks, 'The Meanest Man in Congress' Finally, a presidential EMP order that may save American lives A(nother) chance for Congress on net neutrality MORE (R-Calif.) said similar conservative interests have been behind many of movements that have been discredited, and now they’re behind attempts to call into question the conclusion that humans are causing the climate to change.

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“What the denial apparatus would like is for the public simply to focus on their stable of well-trained scientists who can come out an offer counterpoint to the scientists who are honest and trained and know what they’re talking about and are sincere in what they do,” Whitehouse said at the Thursday event on Capitol Hill.

“When you peel back the curtain and look at the machinery that produces that, and get a sense that it has produced it over and over again on different issues, from climate change to lead paint to tobacco, probably leading all the way back to putting seatbelts in cars,” he said.

Whitehouse and Waxman invited various experts on the push to reduce lead and tobacco and the opposition movements.

Waxman, who has advocated for environmental causes for decades and sponsored unsuccessful legislation to implement a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, said he’s seen a long history of deception backed by pro-business groups.

“I’ve got to say ... I’ve seen this over and over again,” he said.

Waxman spoke at length about opposition to the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, which implemented vehicle emissions standards, mandated an elimination of lead in gasoline and sought to reduce emissions that harm the ozone layer.

Vehicle makers, fuel refiners and chemical manufacturers said the new rules would ruin their industries and harm the economy.

“The history of the Clean Air Act is also a history of exaggerated claims by industry that never came true,” he said. “We’ve emerged with good, strong laws, as well as an economy that has prospered in part because of these efforts.”

Whitehouse said that some Republicans used to support policies to fight climate change. But that changed after the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

That allowed unlimited corporate campaign spending, along with the threats to withhold spending, he said.

“Today, the ramparts of denial are controlled by the Koch brothers, and they will shoot anyone, figuratively, who tries to escape, by pulling out their money and funding their opponent,” Whitehouse said.