West Virginia’s ‘climate disconnect’ in Congress

July 10, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

There’s an interesting report out today from the minority staff (the Democrats) on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Here’s what the press release says:

Today Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman released a new report that compares the climate change voting records of members of Congress in the 112th Congress with the temperatures experienced in 2012 in the districts they currently represent. It finds a widespread “climate disconnect” in the voting records of the Republican members representing the districts most affected by the soaring temperatures in 2012.

“House Republicans are denying the science and disregarding the growing evidence of climate change,” said Rep. Waxman. “The longer Republicans refuse to take action, the more all Americans, including their own constituents, will suffer the extreme impacts of climate change. They are endangering present and future generations by their reckless refusal to listen to the scientists.”

The report finds that Republican members representing the districts most affected by record high temperatures cast anti-climate votes 96% of the time in the 112th Congress. No similar “climate disconnect” was found in the voting records of House Democrats. Democratic members representing districts most affected by high temperatures voted 86% of the time to uphold the Administration’s authority to address climate change or to act to address climate change.

West Virginia shows up in the report in two places. First, there’s this:

The Republican-represented congressional districts with the highest ratio of record high to record low temperatures in 2012 were Ohio’s 4th, West Virginia’s 1st, Michigan’s 3rd, New York’s 19th, Ohio’s 5th, Tennessee’s 2nd, Alabama’s 4th, Virginia’s 4th, Virginia’s 10th, and Georgia’s 3rd. Table 3 lists these ten congressional districts, the member that represents them, and the voting records of these members.

And if you look at that chart, you’ll see that 1st District Rep. David McKinley cast “anti-climate votes” 90 percent of the time. What exactly are these votes. Here’s the general description:

There were 53 climate-related votes on the House floor last Congress, 41 of which were roll-call votes. The Republican members representing the districts most affected by the high temperatures cast anti-climate votes 96% of the time. They voted to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.

And, well, here’s the other mention of West Virginia in the report:

The ten Democratic-represented congressional districts with the highest number of record temperatures were Iowa’s 1st and 2nd, Minnesota’s 7th, New Mexico’s 3rd, Wisconsin’s 3rd, Minnesota’s 1st, West Virginia’s 3rd, Maine’s 2nd, Mississippi’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 2nd. The Democratic members representing the districts with the most record high temperatures voted 79% of the time to uphold Administration authority to address climate change or to otherwise act to address climate change. Only two of the Democratic members representing these districts – Reps. Collin Peterson (MN-7) and Nick Rahall (WV-3) – voted for the anti-climate position more than half the time.

There’s an interactive map online here and the full voting database is here.

7 Responses to “West Virginia’s ‘climate disconnect’ in Congress”

  1. Soyedina says:

    “voting to overturn scientific findings”

    when this is an actual thing, I believe people are in trouble.

  2. Mark says:

    Why is this interesting or surprising? So Henry Waxman releases a report that says Republicans vote against climate change legislation, even though in 2012, Republicans in some districts with high temperatures had to run their air conditioners when it got hot outside.

    It’s well established that typically, Democrats vote for climate change legislation, while Republicans do not. So it is the opinion of some that this indicates Republicans have a ‘climate disconnect?’ It’s not a disconnect. It’s a difference of opinion. It’s disagreement.

    Republicans typically do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity. Therefore, why would they vote for legislation that goes against what they believe?

    In similar fashion, Democrats typically do not vote for legislation that is at odds with what they believe.

  3. Soyedina says:

    I guess what Mark is saying is that, if one political party has the opinion that water boils at 50° F, we shouldn’t say that the group is disconnected [from reality]. Instead we should say that they have a different opinion. Right?

    Obviously, many people (of all political parties) hold opinions about climate change that are so uninformed that they border on beliefs, but this insistence on privileging all opinions as equivalent seems silly.

  4. Mark says:

    Soyedina,

    The boiling point of water is well understood and established. We take it for granted that people spent a long time trying to figure this out. To them, the boiling point of water was a great mystery.

    To say that we understand climate change as well today as we understand the boiling point of water, at this point in our history, is assuming that we have full understanding of climate change and all of the forces and variables that cause it.

    We don’t.

    To discount anyone of a disagreeing view is to trample upon the scientific process and does not further critical thinking. Nothing could be better than a good old fashioned dissection of any theory via debate.

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Mark,

    The basic, most important scientific findings about climate change are pretty simple: The world is getting warmer. Human activity (especially burning fossil fuels) is the major driver. This trend will have impacts that are mostly bad for our society. See, just for one example, this report from the National Academy of Sciences, http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?recordid=05192010

    Are there a wide variety of unknowns and uncertainties beyond those basic conclusions? Of course.

    But there’s really little debate in the scientific community about those things. To say otherwise is simply to ignore scientific findings.

    I’m not suggesting you said otherwise — but in persisting with an “opinion” to the contrary, Republicans (and some Democrats) are refusing to confront the facts.

    Unfortunately for them, politics can’t overturn the laws of physics.

    Ken.

    Ken.

  6. david morrison says:

    According to Dept. of Energy publications, the U.S. emitted only 16.2% of the
    2012 world CO2 emissions, down 1.2%from 2011; China 28.7% up 11.8%; 2012 burning U. S. coal only released 5% of the world total.
    Shouldn’t all pieces like this state such since the self -proclaimed intent is to educate people?

  7. Soyedina says:

    Both major political parties in America have histories of engaging policy from platforms that can only be honestly and fairly described as “Science Denial”.

    It just so happens that in the present case party affiliations do tend to predict a particular form of science denial, climate change denial.

    Now, I personally believe that is a coincidence of historical contingency; were we to “replay the tape” and start over that in different circumstances we might find the parties in opposite roles. I do not believe either party is more prone to general forms of science denial.

    that is mostly neither here nor there, except for the result that science denial seems to be a general human response to uncomfortable facts. The easiest person to fool is often yourself. I do believe if we are going to have this form of government we should ensure that we don’t have fools fooling us and themselves, in concert.

    I personally don’t “discount anyone of a disagreeing view” purely on the view itself, but on the basis of how those views are reached. If you [proverbially] believe that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, you sure as hell didn’t come to that conclusion via the scientific method and to pretend that this is silly opinion is somehow equivalent to a scientific result is the very form of science denial I was talking about.

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