So: Climate change is real. I mean, scientists have been talking about it since the 1890s, but now it’s real real, because the U.S. Senate took a vote. Climate change is a thing, and you can tell everyone the Senate said so — well, everyone except for Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). He still thinks it’s a load of hooey.
Even Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) agreed. Sure, he suggested earlier this year that climate change is a hoax caused by Barbara Streisand, and three years ago he wrote an entire book titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Affects Your Future. Nonetheless, Inhofe even added himself as a cosponsor of the amendment, which was originally offered by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Inhofe isn’t being entirely self-contradictory here; climate change may be a thing, he maintains, it’s just not a human-created thing. “The hoax is,” he said, “there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.”
Actually, scientists have also known since the 1890s that humans are perfectly capable of changing the climate. But on this matter the rest of the Senate sided with Inhofe. It voted 50-49 on another amendment put forward by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). Schatz’s measure said that not only was global warming a real thing, but that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” This amendment went down, but not before picking up some Republican senators along the way — including energy wonk Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.); Susan Collins (R-Maine); Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who caused controversy last year when he won support from the Environmental Defense Fund despite blocking climate regulations; and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who have gone back and forth in the past on whether or not climate change even exists.
In other words: The Senate overwhelmingly backs the reality of climate change, but more than half of it thinks it’s not our fault.
It’s been a busy week down at the Capitol. Yesterday, the Senate voted on two other amendments that Democratic senators attached to S1, the bill to mandate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The first, sponsored by Al Franken (D-Minn.), would have required that if Keystone XL were built it would have to be built with U.S. steel. Another amendment, by Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would ban any oil transported through KXL from being exported. Both got tabled without debate on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised an open process on S1, which means that senators can propose as many amendments as they like. This means that S1 is attracting a ton of amendments; it could take the Senate weeks to go through all of them.
When it’s all over, there’s a good chance S1 will pass. And then President Obama will veto it. What’s happening now is a modified version of the all-night climate talkathon that Democratic senators held last March. That time, only one Republican showed up: It was Inhofe, and he only stopped by to make fun of the event.
This time, Senate Republicans had to be there to make their case and cast their votes, making them the closest thing to a captive audience. All of which means that right now, Keystone XL is the goose that laid the golden grandstand.
Whitehouse actually got a little dreamy. “The dark days of denying there actually is a problem,” he said, “may have just seen breaking of dawn.” Have they? It was only last night that several minutes of Obama making fun of climate change deniers were clumsily edited out of a “factchecked” Republican edit of the State of the Union address.
The vote also created a record at a time when not believing in climate change in the present day could create major political liabilities in the future. “We may not agree on the solutions, on the paths forward,” said Schatz, “or even on some of the details, but I do believe it’s time for us to begin to agree on a basic set of facts.”
Well, now they’ve agreed. Can we move on to the part about the solutions now?