Climate Denial Is Deadly Serious

This week, Republicans in Congress introduced reckless legislation meant to kill the centerpiece of President Obama’s key climate change initiative.

In the fall of 2007, with crops withering across Georgia and lake beds drying to powder amid the state’s worst drought in a century, Governor Sonny Perdue led an Atlanta vigil to pray for rain.

Two years later, he declared a disaster area for broad swaths of Georgia after record flooding took at least nine lives.

Reaching out with more than $40 million in emergency assistance to the flooded state, President Obama called Perdue to discuss the incident from the United Nations, where Obama was attending a meeting on global climate change.

“The threat from climate change is serious; it is urgent and it is growing,” Obama warned his U.N. counterparts. “The time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”

Obama meant what he said. Since then he’s taken action to cut more of the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate change than any other leader anywhere on earth.

This week, though, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia — the former governor’s cousin — and two dozen of his fellow Republicans cosponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate meant to kill the centerpiece of the president’s climate change initiative.

Republicans assert that Obama has committed “overreach” in trying to protect future generations from blistering drought, relentless floods, and other hallmarks of worsening climate change already bearing down on the people of Georgia and around the world.

This reckless insistence by Republican leaders in Congress is blocking the progress we need to fight climate change while offering no plan of their own to confront the central environmental crisis of our time.

Their latest attempt to do so is a bill authored by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from the coal state of West Virginia. She proudly calls it “the principal legislative vehicle in the Senate to roll back President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.”

In fact, the Capito bill is part of a broader attempt by the GOP leadership to put polluter profits first and put the rest of us at risk.

How determined are they to do so?

Another cosponsor of Capito’s bill, serial climate change denier Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from the oil state of Oklahoma, said the bill to kill the president’s plan “is going to go down as probably the most significant thing we will do in the Environment and Public Works Committee this year.”

Inhofe will control that work: He’s the chairman of the committee.

When the chairman of the Senate committee overseeing our environment makes it his top goal to obstruct needed protections against climate change, it’s pretty clear whose interests are being served.

The priority, to the Republican leadership, is not to protect our children from this widening scourge — it’s to protect the companies that produce the fossil fuels that are driving climate change and imperiling our future.

Those companies spent more than $720 million over just the past two years, after all, supporting their allies and agenda in Congress. It looks like they’re getting their money’s worth.

It’s our country, though, that’s paying the price.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan will cut carbon from the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of our carbon footprint.

The plan gives states the first shot at figuring out how to reduce carbon pollution, with input from local power companies and other stakeholders.

That makes perfect sense.

It gives the companies the flexibility to find the most cost-effective way to stop filling our air with the pollution that’s causing climate chaos.

Last year was the hottest year since global record-keeping began in 1880. The 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997. Fossil-fuel use has driven carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere up 43 percent since the dawn of the industrial age, with about half of the increase coming since 1980.

It’s time to cut this dangerous carbon pollution. That’s exactly what the president’s plan will do. If congressional Republicans don’t kill it first.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct confusion between two politicians from Georgia named Perdue.

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