Democrats Try to Override Trump’s Climate Change Policy

March 1, 2019 by Tom Ramstack
Remnants of a burned down home as a brush fire continues to threaten other structures in Ventura, Calif., on December 5, 2017. A study found that Santa Ana winds, which whip up fires, might be tempered in coming decades as a result of climate change. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats sharply criticized President Donald Trump Thursday during a hearing on Capitol Hill for pulling out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

They are trying to figure out how to act without the president’s approval to bring the United States into compliance with the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming.

“For the last two years, President Trump, his administration and Republicans here in Congress have repeatedly pushed actions and policies that would only make the crisis worse,” said Frank Pallone, Jr., D-NJ, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Witnesses from environmental and public policy groups said at a hearing of the committee that states, cities and businesses that continue their own efforts to reduce harmful emissions are limited by a lack of cooperation from the federal government.

Pallone agreed, saying, “We cannot assume state, local, and private sector initiatives will be enough to effectively limit global temperature increases. We have the tools and technology to replace fossil fuel dominance with clean energy but we need to deploy them faster.”

He accused Trump of setting the United States on “a dangerous course” by not trying to switch away from a dependence on fossil fuels like gasoline and coal.

The Paris Agreement was signed by 197 countries as a way to keep the global average temperature from climbing more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Higher temperatures could be catastrophic for crops and create health problems from the emissions that cause them.

Temperatures already have risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Participating countries agreed to set plans to gradually reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, beginning in 2020. Typically they include greater reliance on electric cars and renewable energy for electrical generation.

In June 2017, Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the agreement signed during the Obama administration.

He said the agreement would add too many environmental compliance costs for businesses and depress economic growth. He also has expressed doubt about whether vehicle and industrial emissions are causing global warming.

About 3,500 states, cities, businesses and universities have agreed to act independently to fulfill the original U.S. pledge under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below below 2005 levels by 2025.

“However, there is much that these actors cannot achieve on their own, and thus re-engagement at the federal level will be essential to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Andrew Light, a representative of the World Resources Institute, an environmental policy foundation.

He added that “the current absence of U.S. leadership on climate change greatly increases the risk of global failure to adequately address this critical issue.”

However, Samuel Thernstrom, chief executive officer of the advanced energy advocacy group Energy Innovation Reform Project, cautioned that the Paris Agreement set lofty goals before the U.S. government determined a practical way to reach them.

He said “the Obama Administration made commitments that America was not yet prepared to keep.”

He agreed that reducing emissions was worthwhile but that it required “a mix of regulatory reforms and public and private investments that must be appropriate to the complexity of the task, not the product of a formulaic or ideological approach.”

He recommended using a combination of new technologies, such as carbon capture, energy storage systems, nuclear energy and renewables, like wind and solar.

Another Democratic effort to combat global warming being organized in Congress is led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. This week she announced more members of Congress who are joining the select panel on climate change she started putting together in January.

“The American people have spoken and demanded bold action to take on the climate crisis, which is the existential threat of our time,” Pelosi said in a statement.

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