Are There Too Many Climate Change Deniers in Congress?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | January 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living

Recently, while reading the November/December 2013 issue of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, I came across a graphic that startled me. It depicted two columns, labeled “House” and “Senate.” Under each of those titles were two more columns, showing the number of Democrats and Republicans in each branch of the legislature that are climate change deniers. Under the House section were 200 Democrats; none were listed as climate change deniers. Of the 233 Republicans, 128 deny climate change.

In the Senate, there were 52 Democrats (with two Independents), again with 0 climate change deniers. Of the 46 Republicans, 30 deny that the world is warming.

My goal here is not to cast aspersions on any one party but to look at the big picture. It is possible that we can make strides to protect the planet against the devastating effects caused by rapid climate change if our leadership fails to believe it is real?

Aftereffects of a small temperature rise

The world’s oceans now have 405 dead zones. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

According to NASA, 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880. In fact, with the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest.

In 2012, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than computer models had predicted it would. Sea levels in New York Harbor are now a foot higher than they were a century ago, and our nation is experiencing larger forest fires in a longer fire season.

A few other facts:

  • Scientists say that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. We’re now at 393.
  • The world’s oceans now have 405 dead zones, areas of ocean with too little oxygen for most marine life. Dead zones are caused primarily by nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from farm fields, which kill bottom-dwelling sea creatures (such as crabs), disrupting the food chain and sending predators up higher, into warmer waters.
  • An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan broke free from Greenland in July 2012. Greenland is warming five times faster than average global temperatures, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. The island is also experiencing surface melting across its entire ice sheet.

All this, and we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by only 0.8 degrees Celsius (roughly about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit; every 1-degree C rise in temperature equates to a nearly 2-degree F increase) in the past 100 years. Scientists predict that average surface temperatures could rise between 2 degrees C and 6 degrees C by the end of the 21st century if we fail to initiate serious policy changes. Because of the massive carbon pollution spewing into the atmosphere, the planet is entering into a more aggressive climate paradigm scientists call the “Anthropocene,” in which entire ecosystems will be disrupted and more forms of life will be threatened with extinction.

No single party to blame

In the Anthropocene, more forms of life will become extinct. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

There’s no doubt that the Earth’s climate is complex and responds to multiple forces, including carbon dioxide and insolation. But in the last 100 years — since the Industrial Revolution — the increase in carbon dioxide through increased emissions from human activities is the only variable that can best explain the rapid increase in global temperatures. Yet the current Congress has refused to pass any carbon-capping legislation.

Recently, a group of former Republican Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush together wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times titled “A Republican Case for Climate Action.” They stated: “The United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally. The costs of inaction are undeniable.”

As it’s been said, as far as we now know, there is no Planet B.

Do you think it’s already too late to make strides against a warming climate by the end of this century? How can we make the leadership in Congress take climate change seriously?

Happy trails,


Feature photo: Greenland is warming five times faster than average global temperatures. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

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  1. We focus on the deniers in Congress because they are the people most capable of compelling significant change. Many sit back and blame a handful of deniers for the lack of progress in reducing emissions.

    But there is a second much larger class of individuals that deserve attention– the “ignorers.” There seem to be millions of people who accept anthropogenic climate change is happening and it is due to emissions of greenhouse gases. But in their personal lives they chose to ignore the issue. They want Congress to compel someone else to do something about the problem, while they keep the AC low in summer, heat high in winter, drive gas guzzlers, drink bottled water, etc. etc.

    If the large percentage of people who are not deniers actually changed their behaviors voluntarily, we could be making progress despite the deniers obstructionism in Congress. It is just too easy to maintain the status quo and point the finger at a handful of nitwits and corporate pawns in Congress.

    Andrew Mack | January 15th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  2. One could present alternative “facts” regarding the impact of global climate change, as there is a massive body of ’scientists’ whom have presented a valid portfolio debunking many of the earlier espoused tenets of greenhouse gases/global warming/climate change, ad infinitum. Some of these switched opinions were staunch supporters earlier on. Therein lies a secret about all these essence both sides of the argument are often based on funding sources. I appreciate your arguments..I just simply disagree.


    Charles Higgins | January 16th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  3. Perhaps some foundation or wealthy campaign donor will sponson a Congressional Conference on the science behind the facts concerning climate change. With an opportunity to visit Las Vegas in July with the wife and kids.

    Donald Guerriero | January 18th, 2014 | Comment Permalink

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