Science,  Stateside

For Republicans in Congress, climate change denial trumps national security

Pete Hamilton, a resident of Rockbridge County, Virginia, has written an op-ed for The Roanoke Times explaining why, as a former lifelong Republican, he now identifies as a political independent.

He cited one Congressional vote in particular:

My latest dismay arises over the May 22 vote on House Roll Call No. 231, which amended the Defense Department’s 2015 budget. This amendment specifically prevented any branch of the military from spending funds for contingency planning to contend with potential adverse effects on military preparedness caused by global warming.

Two hundred sixteen Republicans supported this amendment on the final vote, while only 13 opposed it. [See update below.] Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Robert Hurt [Republican congressmen representing southwest Virginia] counted themselves among the majority. I believe that these men are reasonably intelligent, so I assume that their vote relied on the knowledge that the amendment had absolutely no chance of passage in the Senate.

My dismay is heightened by the recognition that, while some people continue to deny that human actions are a significant contributor to global warming (e.g., by the burning of fossil fuels), to deny that our planet is warming is simply to bury one’s head in the sand.

Glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting, adding vast quantities of water to the oceans. Arctic permafrost is thawing, causing ages-old vegetation to decompose, releasing even greater quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These are facts that anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity can easily verify.

Putting aside (for the moment) the question of to what extent human activity is the cause of this, the Navy (for example) recognizes the potential threat of rising sea levels to its ability to maintain its military preparedness.

Imagine, for example, the problems it would face if facilities like those at the Norfolk Naval Base were made inoperable by rising sea levels. Surely prudent management should be investigating alternate plans that could be developed in case of such a disaster.

But apparently Goodlatte, Hurt and their 214 Republican colleagues are less prudent. These same men, who just a few months ago thought it necessary to shut down the federal government in order to “protect” future generations from the looming threat of overwhelming national debt, are less concerned that those future generations would be left with a Navy that is unable to guarantee their safety. Their votes on both issues are examples of raw partisan politics at its worst.

Well said. Insurance– the most evidence-based of industries– has for years recognized, and made decisions, based on the reality of global warming.

Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, testified before Congress last year:

The industry is at great financial peril if it does not understand global and regional climate impacts.

And Nutter told The New York Times:

“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought. It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”

If hard-headed insurance executives can plan for the effects of climate change, why not the armed forces of the United States? No wonder people like Pete Hamilton can no longer stand to identify with a party in which so many leading figures revel in dangerous ignorance.

Update: The actual vote on Roll Call 231 was 227 Republicans voting yes and only three voting no. By contrast 189 Democrats voted no and only four voted yes.