Republicans vowed Tuesday to fight back against the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda, dismissing the White House’s massive new climate change report as nothing more than a “political document intended to frighten Americans.”
The 840-page “National Climate Assessment” paints a bleak, almost apocalyptic future for America, warning of severe droughts, rising sea levels, water shortages and other catastrophic consequences if global warming isn’t fully confronted. President Obama sat down with NBC’s Al Roker and other top meteorologists from around the country on Tuesday to promote both the report and his administration’s ambitious climate change agenda, and to directly address those standing in the way.
“We’ve been sounding this urgency for the last five years,” the president told NBC. “You’ve seen some resistance from Congress. Part of the reason for putting forward this assessment … is we want to emphasize to the public, this is not some distant problem of the future.”
But the report itself does little to advance the president’s environmental agenda. Instead, it is likely to be used as justification for new Environmental Protection Agency regulations and other controversial actions — steps that White House counselor John Podesta bragged cannot be stopped by House Republicans.
What’s unclear, Republicans say, is exactly what those steps will be.
The climate report, written by leading climate scientists and the product of four years of research, sets up a high-stakes fight between GOP leaders and the president, eager to use his executive authority to impose new limits on carbon emissions and take other actions on global warming.
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“This is a political document intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions,” said House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican. “It’s disappointing that the Obama administration feels compelled to stretch the truth in order to drum up support for more costly and unnecessary regulations and subsidies.”
Within hours of the report’s release, Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee vowed to “remain vigilant” and resist any signs of executive overreach.
The president and his advisers have all but conceded that Congress, given the Republican majority in the House and the reluctance of some red-state Democrats, is unlikely to take up any major climate change legislation this year.
The White House has gone down that path before, failing in 2010 to push through the controversial “cap-and-trade” bill despite Democrats controlling both chambers on Capitol Hill. Following that failure, Mr. Obama turned to executive actions.
The president, through the EPA and other agencies, already has overhauled auto fuel efficiency standards; proposed dramatic restrictions on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants that could spell the end of coal as an electricity generator in this country; and established “climate hubs” across the country to encourage local and state action.
The climate report, administration officials argue, is not designed to scare Americans into getting on board with an agenda to combat global warming. Instead, they say it’s simply more proof the president must go further than he already has.
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Specifically, the report predicted climate change will bring with it horrific consequences that differ from region to region. In the Northeast, the study contends that heavy coastal flooding soon will be a reality. In the Southeast, water shortages could devastate communities and entire areas, the report says. In the Midwest, crippling droughts and heat waves are inevitable unless the U.S. changes course, the study argues.
The administration and the president himself say they are through arguing with some congressional Republicans and other critics who believe the jury is still out on whether carbon emissions — or, human activity — are to blame for changing weather.
“If you want to try to side with the polluters and argue to the American public that climate change is not happening today, tomorrow and certainly in the future, that’s going to be a losing argument,” Mr. Podesta told reporters Monday as he previewed the report.
Some specialists see Mr. Podesta’s comments and the climate report itself as proof the administration’s ultimate goal is to acquire more power over the energy sector through new regulations on carbon.
“We are told that this is all done to combat global warming. But the president’s agenda is not about global warming at all,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president at the conservative Institute for Energy Research. “This is their project to put Washington in charge of our energy supplies and our economy.”