House Vote is Sign of Hope for Bipartisanship

With so much news about health care bills, cancer breakthroughs, and meetings with Russians, a House floor vote on a defense authorization bill doesn’t show up on many Americans’ radar screens.

But take a moment to digest - and applaud - a sign of bipartisan support for dealing with climate change. Last week (July 13) 46 House Republicans voted to reject a measure that would have deleted from the annual defense authorization bill a requirement that the Department of Defense study its vulnerability to climate change. With that Republican support, the amendment was defeated, 234-185.

About half of those 46 Republicans belong to the House Climate Solutions Caucus. The caucus consists of 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans - and is growing. The two most recent additions are Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). Caucus members consider climate change a serious problem and want Congress to take action to counter the problem before it’s too late. If your representative is not a member, please encourage him or her to join.

The U.S. military has been ahead of the game in recognizing that climate change affects its mission--in many ways. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real and poses a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, as ProPublica’s Andrew Revkin put it. “In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.”

In written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee, Mattis said, “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today. It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

In January DOD released a study on the risks of a changing climate that said, in part:

“DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it poses to U.S. interests globally,” the study stated. It is “clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water. These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”

Climate Caucus Co-chairman Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, hailed the amendment's defeat as a sign of progress on climate change policy solutions. "This is a great step forward for all who accept the reality of climate change and know Congress needs to act to address it," Curbelo said in a statement. "A bipartisan majority of members are on the record saying climate change and sea level rise must be taken into account when planning for our national defense."

While the vote on the amendment is not a game-changer, it does offer hope that, with time and continued education, we can build enough bipartisan support to enact a market-based response to climate change--a carbon fee--and thus move our nation more quickly toward dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.