House Dems Are Kickstarting Their Climate Agenda with a Flurry of Hearings

After years of science denial, things are about to change.

Bill Chizek/Getty Images

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives will have not one, but two hearings on climate change, breaking at least six years of silence or outright denial about the subject when Republicans were in control.

Both the Natural Resources Committee and a subcommittee of Energy and Commerce are holding simultaneous hearings. The Natural Resources hearing features two panels, starting with testimony from Gov. Roy Cooper (D-N.C.) and Gov Charlie Baker (R-Mass.), who have been vocal in describing how hurricanes and coastal flooding have threatened their states. Both committees’ witnesses will include a mix of scientists, activists, and environmental justice advocates in hearings that will quite broadly focus on the case for action, laying some initial groundwork for potential climate legislation.

“Communities across the country have been feeling severe climate impacts for years and hoping for relief from Congress,” Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement. “Republicans and their industry allies told them it was all in their heads. Democrats on this Committee aren’t just acknowledging those communities—we want to put them front and center to tell their stories, inform the country, and help us take action in Washington.”

Next Tuesday, House Science, Space, and Technology adds a third hearing focused more specifically on where climate science stands.

These hearings land in the middle of a flurry of activity around climate on the Hill, with the impending announcement of the members of the House select committee on climate, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introducing a symbolic blueprint for a Green New Deal.

There have already been a few flash points over both methods and policy points before the hearings even begin. Ocasio-Cortez did not get her demand that the select committee have subpoena or legislative power; Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) rejected calls for Democrats to reject fossil fuel donations. The Ocasio-Cortez and Markey resolution, which has not been released, is attracting early criticism from some environmental corners for not including a clear ban on fossil fuels.

As easy as it is to get lost in the controversy, many environmentalists have tempered their criticisms with cautious optimism about the renewed focus on climate change and the chance for House Democrats to move in productive directions.

For instance, Food and Water Watch’s senior policy advocate Mitch Jones hopes Democrats look at the effects of fracking and its potent methane emissions. “We have to get methane out of the energy mix,” he told Mother Jones. “We would like to see some good strong hearings that call in the scientists doing the hard work on what methane is doing to climate change and how much is leaking from the fracked gas system.”

Oil Change International’s strategic communications director David Turnbull said Democratic members should focus on phasing out fossil fuels. “Any discussion of climate action that ignores the critical need for a managed decline of fossil fuel production, particularly in the United States where we are the cusp of an unprecedented burst of oil and gas production, is fatally incomplete,” he said.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate