"The Largest Assault on Democracy and Freedom in this Country": Rep. Shimkus on Cap-and-Trade

shimkus congress gop climate change bill cap trade photo

When it comes to talking about climate change and the costs of fighting it, not all Republicans find it easy being green. Yesterday's opening of hearings on the draft bill on climate change before the House included this grandstanding gem from Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.):

This is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I've ever experienced. I've lived through some tough times in Congress. We've seen two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all of the above.
We've heard of the risks of climate change hype and fear-mongering, but this takes it in a whole new direction. The House's biggest emitter of tragicomic relief had other, ahem, compelling points to make too.In the same hearing, Shimkus asked EPA Chief Lisa Jackson what the greatest source of greenhouse gases were. "Livestock," she responded. He quickly shot back that wetlands were the country's greatest source of carbon dioxide, and asked if therefore the EPA intended to drain the nation's wetlands.

Jackson replied that the issue at hand was anthropogenic climate change, and no, the EPA did not intend to drain America's wetlands. (Never mind the government's finding that protecting wetlands will actually help us mitigate climate change.)

Democracy Threats
In the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg makes the argument that regulating carbon dioxide, as the Environmental Protection Agency's recent endangerment finding allows the agency to do, would also be an affront to democracy.

Goldberg may be forgetting that there are some reasons for "regulating the air you breathe," including the Supreme Court's decision two years ago that CO2 is a pollutant because as the EPA notes, it leads to "killer heat waves, stronger hurricanes, higher smog levels."

Of course, the logistics of the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases are so great and complex that even the EPA and the White House hope that it won't have to happen, and that the Congress can instead develop strong legislation that uses a market cap-and-trade system to slow the US's contribution to global warming.

Contentious Climate
But the big debate over that legislation, sponsored by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is going to face some serious roadblocks, especially the argument by Republicans and some Democrats from coal- and oil-rich states that cap-and-trade would kill US jobs and cost consumers thousands.

(To respond, may we suggest arguments about green jobs, stimulating innovation, saving billions in climate change damage, and protecting our health. Oh, and the Republican economics on the costs of climate change legislation could use some fact checking, especially given the EPA's new report that the cost to families would amount to pennies a day).

Shimkus Continued: Wetlands and God's Hands
But occasionally there are some, well, less sophisticated arguments, ones that don't have easy responses (if anyone wanted to respond).

If verbal arguments wouldn't disabuse Shimkus of his fears about "the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country," maybe images like these would do the trick? Probably not.

This wasn't the first head-slapping Shimkus moment. During a recent exchange with British global warming denier Lord Christopher Monckton, Shimkus offered the compelling argument that because plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, curtailing man-made carbon dioxide emissions would actually kill the world's plants.

It probably needs to be seen to be believed:

So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? ... So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

Never mind that man-made carbon emissions are helping to augment the fires that are tearing through the world's forests.

But Shimkus doesn't let science get in the way of a good theological argument. In March, he cited a higher authority than the EPA in challenging the legitimacy of climate science. "The earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth," he said.

"Today we have about 388 parts per million [of carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere," Shimkus also noted. "I think in the age of the dinosaurs, when we had most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon."

Meanwhile, on Sunday House Republican leader John Boehner called the idea that carbon dioxide was dangerous "comical.". That same day, Congressman Markey told TreeHugger that the EPA's finding that CO2 is a pollutant was "the most important decision in the history of environmental decisions."

As the Times' Andy Revkin tells us, this kind of deadlocked division over climate issues is par for the course in a democracy. While the science and the pressure to act on climate change has never been stronger, some members of Congress are going to be putting up a big fight against climate legislation. One big question: will imaginative critics like Shimkus end up speeding up the demand for action -- or speeding up climate change?

via Washington Independent
More at TreeHugger on Climate Change Legislation
Guide to the Democrats' Energy and Climate Bill: the Greenest in US History?
The Obama Cap and Trade Debate Rages On
GOP Willfully Distorts Research on Climate Legislation
"The Most Important Decision in the History of Environmental Decisions": Ed Markey On CO2 As Pollutant Finding [Video]
The 6 Greenest Republicans in Office
The U.S. Republican Party Page
The Four Stages of Climate Change Denial