The 2014 midterm election results prompt some thought about the future of environmental policy in Congress. Republicans are less likely to advocate for environmental protection than Democrats. With decisions such as the Keystone Pipeline on the horizon, the make-up of congressional committees and leaders are increasingly important. With a firm Republican majority in the House and the Senate, there are expected changes in the leaders of committees.
Of particular importance to the environmental is the potential placement of Senator James Inhofe to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe is a known climate denier who published a book titled, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens your Future.” Selecting him for the Environment and Public Works Committee would send a clear message that the Republican Party is not willing to accept the scientific evidence for climate change, let alone pass policies to mitigate it. In the past, funding for scientific research into climate change has been cut by misunderstanding climate science. The assignment of Inhofe indicates that there may be more cuts to come. Specifically, funds for contributions to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (of which the US already gives very little to) may be at risk.
Also alarming is the likelihood that Senator McConnell is now in a position to carry out his plans “promising to end the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on carbon pollution from power plants.” As the newly elected Majority Leader of the 114th Congress, McConnell’s plans may come to fruition.
It’s not all bad news. Obama recently made a deal with China to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Despite Republicans declaring the deal a “war on coal,” climate scientists are resoundingly optimistic about its potential effects. This policy will undoubtedly be difficult to meet if resistance arises in the Senate and the House. It is certainly uplifting that Obama is finally addressing climate change with more than just (a few) words and enacting some real, marked change in his last two years in office. With a Republican majority, however, an environmental legacy may be difficult to establish.