Energy & Environment

GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming

Republican lawmakers are largely shrugging off dire climate change warnings spelled out in a major new United Nations report.

Few GOP lawmakers on Wednesday said they had read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report, which warned that the planet would be unlivable if leaders failed to cut carbon emissions.

“I just got that, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to do a deep dive on it so I’m going to have to wait to comment,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) told The Hill three days after the report was released.

Even fewer said they were heeding the warnings that action needed to be taken to cut emissions by 2030.

{mosads}“That’s the UN. That’s the group that was formed to sell this in the first place,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the former chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and one of the best-known skeptics of climate change in the Senate.

“They come from that prejudiced perspective,” Inhofe said of the report’s author.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D) said he had also not read the report or the 34-page summary for policymakers, but said that it was important to do whatever necessary to maintain a strong economy first. Conservative lawmakers have often clashed with scientists over the grave financial implications of having to scale back carbon emissions.

“We ought to be talking about the things that we can do and still maintain a strong economy, because we’re not going to be able to address it unless we keep a strong economy,” Rounds said. 

The countries that negotiated the landmark Paris climate agreement called for the report, asking the IPCC to study how to limit the globe’s average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial readings.

The report found that the emissions reductions pledged as part of the 2015 Paris report, from which the Trump administration is withdrawing the United States, would not be enough to protect the planet from the worst effects of global warming.

Without dramatic emissions cuts, the world faces significant sea-level rise, water shortages, coral reef die-offs and loss of habitat range for species by 2030, the report forecast. 

President Trump offered a skeptical response to the report on Tuesday.

“It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it,” he told reporters. “Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it, absolutely.”

Democrats and environmentalists say the findings should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers worldwide. Among other conclusions, it calls for a 45 percent cut to carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and “net zero” emissions by 2050.

“It’s a stark, well-researched, impeccable piece of science. But nothing will move congressional Republicans other than voters punishing them,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii.).

Trump and other Republicans have long been concerned that cutting carbon emissions would lead to significant rollbacks on fossil fuel production like coal and gas at a time when the U.S. has just become the world’s top oil producer.

But some Republicans said they were interested in looking at ways to support the development of at least one technology some say could slow-down greenhouse gas emissions: carbon capture.

Rounds said he supported policies like those to encourage “clean coal” technologies.

“I think there are some very proactive things that we can do,” he said.

For years the idea of carbon capture has been touted as a method that could help fight global warming. The technology could be built to capture carbon dioxide directly from fossil fuel or chemical plants that release it, or it could be used to pull carbon directly from the air and store it elsewhere.

The IPCC report said carbon capture was an essential mitigation tool to achieve the net emissions reductions needed to limit global warming.

Republican lawmakers remain receptive to the technology in part because it would allow power plants to continue production as is.

“I think that we need to move in that direction,” said Capito, who is a sponsor of the USE IT Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in May that would direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set up a competitive prize program to incentivize the private sector research and development of carbon capture technologies.

“We have great bipartisan buy-in there and I think that’s the direction we have to go, but I think this is a global issue and we have to look at what’s going on internationally,” she said.

The problem with carbon capture is that costs associated with the technology in its current iteration are exorbitant. It would use more fuel to capture carbon than to simply burn it, which has led critics to argue it’s not a viable option unless there’s a tax on carbon.

Tags Brian Schatz Climate change Donald Trump Global warming Mike Rounds Paris Climate Accords Shelley Moore Capito United Nations

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