The debate in Washington over climate change in America today is pretty hard for us outsiders to comprehend. Think of two duplex owners discussing their old, leaking roof:
- Water’s pouring in. We’ve got to replace the roof.
- I don’t think it’s leaking. And if it is, we can’t afford a new one.
- It’s getting worse with every rain. If we don’t replace it, the whole house will be shot.
- You just want to make me spend more money. I don’t see water coming in on my side.
- Whatever you see, the inspection report warned us that the roof needed replacement. Now mold is growing everywhere.
- Those inspectors are in cahoots with the roofing contractors. The cost of a roof will break me.
- I need a new neighbor, or else my house is history.
- I need a new neighbor, who won’t bother me with all this leak hysteria.
In today’s polarized environment, President Obama and many Democrats want to fix the roof – or in this case, the climate crisis. Most Republican politicians wish they’d just back off.
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the GOP has a rich heritage when it comes to environmental protection. And a couple of days ago, four old GOP sheriffs rode back into town to help us clean up this mess. They’re the leaders of the EPA who served under Nixon, Reagan, Bush-one and Bush-two. (That’s every elected Republican president since Eisenhower.) Together, they were responsible for setting up the EPA in the first place, banning the pesticide DDT, setting auto-emission standards, phasing out toxic lead from gasoline, limiting ozone-destroying CFCs, cleaning up the PCBs from the Hudson River, controlling acid rain, cleaning toxins out of the Chesapeake Bay, and countless other measures to protect us, our children and our ecosystems.
You may not even know their names: William Ruckelshaus served under Republican presidents Nixon and Reagan; Lee Thomas ran the EPA for Reagan; William Reilly served under George H.W. Bush; and Christine Todd Whitman was George W. Bush’s EPA chief. If you’re breathing clean air, drinking clean water, or eating food free of toxins, you can probably thank one or all of them.
They’re Republicans. They’re smart. They understand environmental hazards as well as just about anybody.
And last Friday, they published a joint call on Congress that they called A Republican Case for Climate Action.
“The United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally,” said the former EPA chiefs. “There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.” Continue reading