Republicans on the House’s new climate-change panel see building more climate-resilient cities and coastlines as a priority—with talking about greenhouse gas emissions taking a back seat.
Led by ranking committee member Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.),—whose state’s coastal wetlands are disappearing at the average rate of a football field every 100 minutes—the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ six-member GOP contingency say that adapting to sea-level rise and devastating weather events are at the top of their wish list for hearings.
“If there are measures we can take to be proactive,” Graves told reporters, “that is going to save us money in the long term.”
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last year concluded that countries have about 12 years to dramatically reduce emissions to avoid the worst-case scenarios for climate change, a finding that has spurred ambitious plans such as the Green New Deal to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
Although Graves said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a goal for Republicans and Democrats, the need to adapt is far more urgent.
“It doesn’t matter how aggressive we are in the United States at reducing our emissions or limiting our emissions, we are not going to see a change in temperature trajectory or sea-rise trajectory for decades at the absolute earliest,” he said.
Other Republicans on the panel agreed.
“I represent the entire coast of Georgia,” Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter (R) told Bloomberg Environment. “We’ve had two hurricanes within 11 months, and we need to be prepared.”
Asked what he would suggest for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Carter said, “My main focus is going to see what we can do to protect out coast and things like infrastructure.”
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) said he would highlight the potential of human ingenuity to promote adaptation.
“The fact that you can have major cities on coastal areas that can withstand Category 4, Category 5 hurricanes is indicative of the engineering expertise and the technological expertise that we have to mitigate against things like that,” he said.
“There’s no question there’s climate change but as far as human activity leading to a catastrophic result, I don’t think the science, nor the history of climate change, bears that out,” he added.
The panel’s remaining Republicans, Reps. Morgan Griffith (Va.), Carol Miller (W.Va.), and Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The GOP’s focus on adaptation could chafe Democrats who see a closing window of opportunity to reduce emissions.
Graves will “probably be a potential ally when it comes to working on adaptation, and coastal resilience, and other aspects of the climate challenge,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who serves on the panel, told reporters.
“The more difficult conversation is, can we please stop wrecking the planet in the next ten to twelve years by dramatically transforming our economy away from fossil fuels,” Huffman said.
“I hope he’ll participate in that part of the conversation, too,” he added.