United States senators may soon have to state, for the congressional record, whether they think climate change is real, thanks to an amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that will be included in this week’s Senate debate on the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
Sanders’ “sense of Congress” amendment will ask members for their opinion on five statements: climate change is real; climate change is caused by human activities; climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world; a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm; and, it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible.
The amendment has virtually no chance of being passed as part of the final Keystone bill. But even if the amendment is not put to a vote, a debate on the Senate floor will force Republican Senators, who mostly deny global warming, to formally enter their opinions into public record.
“The American people need to know whether Congress is listening to the overwhelming majority of scientists when it comes to climate change,” Sanders said, in a statement posted to his website. “On this issue, the scientists have been virtually unanimous in saying that climate change is real, it is caused by human action, it is already causing devastating problems which will only get worse in the future and that we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., floated a similar amendment several years ago, but it was never voted on. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could block discussion of the Sanders amendment, or any other amendments to the contentious Keystone bill, but he has promised not to do so. By allowing an open debate, McConnell may be able to shift a few more Democrats in favor of the pipeline, which Republicans by and large support.
The Republican leadership has long been skeptical of climate change, with even the chair of the Senate environment and public works committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., having penned a 2012 book entitled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” According to the latest figures from the environmental group Climate Progress, which tracks lawmakers’ views on climate change, 70 percent of Republicans in the Senate either deny climate change or “obstruct action” on it.
The Keystone pipeline would carry oil from western Canadian tar sands across the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries. It has been met with strong opposition by environmental groups, and President Barack Obama has said he will veto the bill if it is passed.