Climate change compromises may be easier with China than Congress

Republicans balk at Obama's climate initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. - When it comes to halting climate change, President Barack Obama may have an easier time getting China on board than some of his fellow Americans.

The United States and China, the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, announced Wednesday new targets to cut such emissions and persuade other nations to take equally ambitious measures ahead of a major climate treaty to be finalized next year in Paris.

The plan would be a “a milestone,” according to the president, and would see the U.S. drop its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent before the year 2025. China has pledged to peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and get 20 percent of its energy from zero-carbon emission sources by the same time. But when Obama comes back to face the new Republican Senate in 2015, the chances of bold climate action within the next two years don’t look as promising.

Top congressional Republican leaders quickly criticized the U.S.-China climate change pact. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the agreement shortly after the deal was announced Wednesday, and said it would have deleterious effects on the U.S. economy.

"Our economy can't take the president's ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners," McConnell, who hails from the coal state of Kentucky, said. "This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.”

According to The Hill, “Republican lawmakers are planning an all-out assault on Obama’s environmental agenda, including rules on mercury and other air toxics from power plants, limits on ground-level ozone that causes smog, mountaintop mining restrictions and the EPA’s attempt to redefine its jurisdiction over streams and ponds.”

Leading that assault is Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., very likely the biggest climate denier in Congress. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Inhofe is expected to become chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which handles legislation on air pollution and the environment. Two years ago, he published a book titled, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

Inhofe released a statement on the White House’s deal Wednesday that might as well be a call for war against the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This deal is a non-binding charade. The American people spoke against the president's climate policies in this last election. They want affordable energy and more economic opportunity, both which are being diminished by overbearing EPA mandates,” he said. “As we enter a new Congress, I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA's unchecked regulations.”

Inhofe is a big opponent of the Obama administration's proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, describing it as the "definitive step in the administration's war on fossil fuels.” 

He has compared the EPA to Nazi Germany’s Gestapo and pushed to roll back water and air pollution rules, ozone limits and funding for contamination cleanup. He’s also one to poke fun at those he deems climate alarmists.

After a record-breaking snowfall hit Washington, D.C., in 2010, Inhofe and his family built an igloo that they named “Al Gore’s New Home.”

While Inhofe might be Congress’ top climate denier, other members aren’t far behind. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who will lead the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says she doubts humans are responsible for climate change and wants to increase domestic energy production and exports.

Newly minted Republican Senator for West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito is staunchly against the current administrations' environmental policies. Those sentiments continue to be echoed by some other Republican members who say reversing many of the president's climate initiatives will be a priority following the lame-duck session. 

“The president’s policies are disenfranchising my part of the country,” she said on Fox News Sunday. “We’ve been picked as a loser, and I’m not going to stand for it. Rolling back the EPA regulations is the way to do it.”

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