Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put a racial spin Wednesday on climate change and hurricanes, attributing emissions from “predominantly white” corporations and communities for juicing recent storms that cost “predominantly black and brown lives” in Louisiana and Puerto Rico.
Even as House Republicans argued that cheap electricity from fossil fuels has helped lift more than a billion people out of poverty around the world, the New York Democrat asked a witness about whether “the Global South and communities of color” bear the brunt of climate “havoc.”
“[T]he people that are producing climate change, the folks that are responsible for the largest amount of emissions, or communities, or corporations, they tend to be predominantly white, correct?” she asked at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Mustafa Ali replied that “yes, and every study backs that up I know no one is intentionally trying to kill people and hurt people.”
“My own grandfather died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, referring to the 2017 Puerto Rico storm that ultimately left about 3,000 dead. “We can’t act as though the inertia and history of colonization doesn’t play a role in this.”
Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, pointed out that the deadliest hurricane in North American history remains the 1900 Great Galveston Storm, which killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people, making landfall well before the rise of atmospheric carbon-dioxide emissions.
What’s more, he said, low-income communities will be the hardest hit if climate change initiatives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing are enacted.
“Let’s talk about the massive violation of civil liberties that will occur if we do as Elizabeth Warren has said, and ban fracking,” said Mr. Roy. “Let’s crush the American economy and crush the jobs not only in Texas but around the United States, and ban fracking in a fit of hysteria, undermining the very civil liberties of the Americans that depend on that affordable and available abundant energy.”
The hearing was timed to the start of the ExxonMobil “climate fraud” trial in New York, which began as a probe into what Exxon “knew” decades ago about climate change but morphed into an accounting dispute over the company’s use of two sets of numbers to gauge the “proxy cost” of carbon and climate regulations.
“The purpose of this hearing seems to be to stir up a media frenzy and provide a story line for the current court case in New York, a case that isn’t even about allegedly covering up the truth about climate change any more, but about accounting disagreements,” said Mr. Roy.
Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin argued that “Exxon knew decades ago that climate change was real and would have devastating consequences if left corrected,” but instead “publicly denied the reality of climate change” by engaging in an “extensive and sinister campaign of climate denial.”
“The people have been denied the power knowledge gives, which means they have been governed by Big Oil,” said Mr. Raskin, Maryland Democrat.
Former Exxon consultant Martin Hoffert said the company “deliberately created doubt” about the seriousness of climate change that contradicted its internal research, adding that, “as a result, homes and livelihoods will likely be destroyed and lives lost.”
In questions to Mr. Hoffert and former Exxon scientist Ed Garvey, Rep. James Comer, Kentucky Republican, established that Exxon’s climate research was widely published and in line with what other researchers were saying at the time about global warming.
“The New York attorney general and many other leading climate-change litigation efforts across the country would have us believe that the oil-and-gas industry hid key science for decades from the American public,” said Mr. Comer. “Publishing work that is consistent with academic research in scientific journals seems like an odd way to go about hiding anything.”
Global climate-related deaths — those from floods, hurricanes, drought, wildfires and other “extreme weather” events — plummeted by about 95% from 1920-2018, according to data compiled by the Copenhagen Consensus Center’s Bjorn Lomborg.
Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, said he knows from first-hand experience that moving to 100% renewable energy in the near future, as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has called for in her Green New Deal, would be expensive, particularly for the disadvantaged.
“For the record, I’m not against solar, I’m not against electric cars,” Mr. Massie said. “I drive an electric car and my house is 100% solar. But I estimate that I pay about twice the cost for transportation and electricity, so this is not a burden we should put on low-income communities.”