Three non-binding resolutions came before the Senate yesterday, all regarding climate change.
One amendment came from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and said that climate change is not a hoax. The second came from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and added to Whitehouse’s amendment, saying that not only is climate change real, it is caused by human actions. And the third came from Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and said that climate change is real while making the claim that the Keystone XL pipeline would be better for the environment because it would emit less greenhouse gasses than transporting oil products by rail.
Surprisingly, the Senate actually managed to pass one of those resolutions, Sen. Whitehouse’s, by a 98-1 vote. And while actually admitting climate change is real might seem like a big step for the GOP, it actually changes nothing.
Whitehouse’s amendment said nothing about human activity causing climate change, and Schatz’s amendment, which explicitly said global warming is “significantly caused by human activity,” fell 10 votes short of the 60 required to pass. In a strange turn of events, there were five Republican senators who voted in favor of Schatz’s resolution: Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), Lamar Alexander (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Kelly Ayotte (NH).
Hoeven’s amendment, which fell one vote short of passing, said that climate change was real and included language citing human activity as the cause. But it also included points saying that the Keystone XL pipeline would not significantly impact the environment.
Fifteen Republican senators voted in favor of Hoeven’s amendment — which even he voted against — including Rand Paul (KY). That makes Paul and Graham the only possibly GOP candidates for president in 2016 to have gone on record admitting that yes, climate change exists, and yes, human activity contributes to it.
“I think what is exciting is that today we saw for the first time — a number, a minority — but some Republicans going onboard and saying that climate change is real and it’s caused by human activity,” said Sanders. “And I suspect that you are going to see in the months to come, more and more Republicans forced to acknowledge that reality.”
While admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery, it doesn’t seem like the GOP is ready or willing to actually tackle the problem of climate change. This vote puts them on record as finally admitting climate change exists, but it also puts them on the record as denying the cause, and therefore unlikely to actually do anything to fix the problem in the future.