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Climate Change Policies Dead In The Water With New Congress

Much has been made of the fact that immigration reform is going to have a tough time getting through Congress now that Republicans have taken control of both chambers, but an issue that appears to have even less of a chance of getting addressed in the next two years is climate change. If anything, Republicans taking control of Congress may exacerbate the situation.

Start with who is going to takeover the committee in the Senate responsible for climate change related legislation now that the GOP is in control. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee is set to be headed by Senator James Inhofe. Inhofe is not just skeptical of climate change, he believes it is a hoax and has written a book explaining why he believes scientists are conspiring to lie about the climate.

But Inhofe isn’t alone. The Republican senate candidates who won their elections in 2014 are by and large skeptical of climate change. Given that much of the Senate seats up for grabs were in conservative leaning red states this is not a surprise. But these new senators will join an already skeptical/denialist Republican Party.

It looks like the millions of dollars that environmental philanthropist Tom Steyer invested in the midterms didn’t buy much other than a fledgling political infrastructure to sock away for 2016. With Republicans now in control of the Senate, we’re likely to see a bill to push through the Keystone XL pipeline coming down the pike soon. And Mitch McConnell, probably the coal industry’s biggest booster, retained his seat.

In fact, McConnell and his climate-denying colleague James Inhofe of Oklahoma—the likely chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee—won a lot of new friends on Capitol Hill last night. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that most of the Senate’s newly elected Republicans are big boosters of fossil fuels and don’t agree with the mainstream scientific consensus on global warming.

So not only are we not likely to see any new action to prevent more carbon emissions, there is a strong chance that the Republicans will be pressing to build the Keystone XL pipeline which will facilitate the extraction and burning of oil from the Canadian tar sands – what NASA climate scientist James Hansen called “game over” for trying to stop the worst effects of climate change. Will Obama withdraw what little opposition he has offered and authorize the pipeline?

Though there is a major climate conference with supposedly tough legal binding goals already set for 2015, it is hard to imagine the Obama Administration being able to do much with a unified Republican Congress in total opposition to any action whatsoever on climate change. With immigration reform Republicans have somewhat of an incentive to be reasonable for fear of alienating the Hispanic community before the 2016 election, with climate change they have an incentive to be even more intransigent against regulating carbon emissions due to the flood of money from the oil and gas industry that has been ferociously coming into party coffers after Citizens United.

It’s going to be a tough two years for the climate.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.