Senate Dems push climate change amendment
By Zack Colman - 12/03/12 11:12 PM ET
Senate Democrats are attempting to force a vote on climate change through an amendment to the defense authorization bill, according to a draft of the amendment obtained by The Hill.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) amendment calls for the U.S. to “assess, plan for, and mitigate the security and strategic implications of climate change” out of concern for national security.
Democrats might be looking for a vote of record by Republicans on climate change, thinking opposition to it would be cast in a negative light after Hurricane Sandy.
Many scientists have avoided saying climate change caused Hurricane Sandy. Numerous scientists have said, however, that the effects of climate change — notably, rising sea levels and warmer waters — contributed to the storm’s intensity, and that those effects could increase the frequency of extreme weather events.
It is unclear whether the amendment would be called on the floor. Republicans on Monday held up the defense bill, S. 3254, for three hours.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) apologized for the delay, saying it played into Democrats’ arguments for filibuster reform that Republicans oppose. He alluded to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as the reason for the hold.
Green groups, such as the Sierra Club, are pushing for those rule changes. They contend Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to impede progress on bills that would address climate change.
If the amendment does get a vote, it would take the GOP head-on at the nexus of climate change and national security.
At their convention in August, Republicans adopted a platform that critiized the White House National Security Strategy in 2010 for saying, “The danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe.”
The platform said that said such a position, “subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.’”
Whitehouse’s amendment, S.A. 3181, cites the National Security Strategy’s climate change warning. It also mentions the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which outlined climate change as a national security threat.
Seth Larson, Whitehouse’s spokesman, confirmed the amendment’s submission.
“Senator Whitehouse is deeply concerned about the effects climate change is having on our world, and looks for every opportunity to raise awareness of those effects. He felt that the debate over the defense authorization bill was a good opportunity to discuss these effects within the context of our national security, and to highlight the real risks that global climate change is creating for our armed services,” Larson said in a Monday statement.
The amendment’s co-sponsors — Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) — all represent coastal states.
They, along with Whitehouse, have been vocal about the effects rising sea levels and warmer water temperatures associated with climate change have on their constituents.
Those warnings grew more acute after Sandy, which has destroyed tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure and personal property.
In a floor speech last month, Whitehouse commented that events like Sandy will become more frequent "if we do not recognize the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and the need to prepare our infrastructure."
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), whose state was hit by Sandy, told The Hill last month that Senate Democrats would “use every opportunity we can” to secure a vote on climate change.