The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Found:Even-handed Republicans on climate change

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As we head into what will likely be a tumultuous fall in Washington, it’s important to remember that climate change is not just a myth to even-handed Republicans.

During the waning days of summer, news items that don’t achieve Category 1 hurricane status tend to fall through the cracks. This one is worth a second look as it provides a glimmer of hope to those of us who fear climate change has become an entirely partisan issue.

Last week, Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Roberts (R-KS), Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, toured south-central Kansas, a region heavily dependent on agriculture that’s been devastated by this year’s historic drought. They were in the area to conduct one of two agriculture hearings (the first one was held in Michigan in May) to discuss the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. It was also the last opportunity for the Senators to formally engage constituents prior to making recommendations to the “super-committee” for budget cuts to agricultural programs, something that Committees in both Houses must do in compliance with the debt-ceiling deal.

A journalist who covers agricultural issues for DTN/Progressive Farmer blogged about the hearing, which covered topics like the incessant drought in the southwest, food security issues, river flooding, and was compelled to ask the Senators what the Committee is doing in regards to climate change and the ability for the region to produce food in the future. Here’s just part of Sen. Roberts’ response:

“As I’ve indicated, you have 11 different agencies working on the drought, obviously we’re going through a period where we are experiencing global warming,” Roberts said. “I went to Antarctica some years ago. I looked at the ice rings. It was obvious to me that we had global warming. I came back and I tried to let agriculture know let’s not get into the debate is there global warming or is there not global warming. Let’s be part of the answer.”

Corn in Reno county that has been abandoned due to the Kansas drought.  Photo by Jim French.
Corn in Reno county that has been abandoned due to the Kansas drought. Photo by Jim French.

Senator Roberts isn’t the only Republican acknowledging the science of climate change. In a tweet a few weeks ago, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman made the claim that he “trust[s] scientists on global warming.” And he even went a step further, telling ABC’s Jake Tapper that his opponents’ opposition to the idea of climate change is extremist. Paul Krugman’s recent piece in the Times highlights Huntsman for willing to stand out on this issue.

As we head into what will likely be a tumultuous fall in Washington, with negotiations over the debt deal coming to a head, unemployment rates hovering at record levels, and the 2013 Presidential election season gaining speed, it’s important to remember that climate change is not just a myth to even-handed Republicans. If we continue to identify solutions that save money in the long run, we may still make progress on one of the defining issues of our generation.

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