WASHINGTON (CN) – Devastating findings compiled in the National Climate Assessment report have not tempered President Donald Trump's dismissive stance on climate change. But on Capitol Hill the dire forecast is being taken up by newly elected House Democrats as a clarion call for sound new national policy on greenhouse gas emissions and the future of fossil fuels.
Spread over more than 1,600-pages, the assessment compiled by scientists at 13 federal agencies said warming-charged extremes "have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration" and that if nothing is done to arrest the man-made contribution to climate change, it will wind up costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars a year by the end of the century.
Following the report’s release over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Trump told reporters at the White House he read only “some” of report and did not believe it.
The responsibility to address climate change lies with “China, Japan and all of Asia and all these other countries,” he said, adding that the U.S. was the “cleanest it has ever been.”
The White House’s official statement also undercut the administration’s findings in the report.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Monday in order to “better assess” future effects of climate change, the administration would focus on improving transparency in its research and projection modeling for the fifth report scheduled for release in 2020.
The Administration's sentiments are shared by Republican legislators on Capitol Hill who have spent much of the last two years backing White House efforts to rollback existing environmental regulations while stymieing more environmentally-friendly proposals from Democrats.
But Democrats whose election led to the party recapturing control of the House of Representatives are already pressing for renewed U.S. effort to address climate change.
Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York barreled into Washington, D.C. following her victory calling for her fellow Democrats to establish a “Green New Deal” and seat a select committee that would draft legislation to move the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels by 2030.
As envisioned by Ocasio-Cortez, the 15-member committee would also draft legislation establishing a national energy-efficient smart grid, “decarbonizing” the agricultural industry, and more aggressively allotting investments for green jobs and infrastructure.
Ocasio-Cortez has also said the committee she's seeking would include Republicans, but she's set the bar for inclusion fairly high. She has said none of the members can have received funding from the fossil fuel industry.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have thrown support behind the proposal.
The League of Conservation Voters poured $80 million into a super PAC ahead of midterms in November to secure a Democratic victory. The league cited frustration with leaders who fail to put public health ahead of corporate polluters.
Tiernan Sittenfield, senior vice president for government affairs at the league, told Courthouse News Tuesday that while some infighting between new and existing Democrats is inevitable after the new Congress is sworn in come January, the organization is "thrilled" with the emerging consensus around climate-related issues.
“The new pro-environment majority in the House will be able to block legislation that threatens our air, water and climate and will also be able to do badly-needed oversight of the Trump administration’s many environmental rollbacks and scandals,” Sittenfield said.
The Climate issue is also playing a role in Rep. Nancy Pelosi's bid to return as House speaker in the next Congress. Several of the newly elected House members had campaigned, in part, by saying they would not support Pelosi as the next speaker.
But Ocasio-Cortez has thrown her support behind the Californian's re-election “so long as she remains the most progressive candidate for Speaker” and commits to harnessing the Democrat's new power in the House to advance a climate-friendly agenda.
In October, after the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its own dire report on the anticipated disastrous effects of unchecked global warming, Pelosi called for the reinstatement of a select congressional committee to study climate.
Some Democrats backed the idea, but others dismissed it. A similar House committee was formed by Democrats in 2007 but ended up being little more than an investigatory body since it lacked the power to actually enact legislation. It was eventually disbanded by the Republicans when they took over control of the House in 2011.
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