If any single group is responsible for the recent wellspring of debate in Congress over climate change, it is the young activists who occupied the office of soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just days after Democrats won back the chamber in November.
Five months later, a special climate committee impaneled by Pelosi made a tacit acknowledgment of young people’s political power on the issue by holding a hearing Thursday on what it dubbed “Generation Climate.”
For the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, lawmakers invited teenagers and 20-somethings to testify about how global warming is affecting them, their friends and their families.
“This is a time for all of us to come together,” said Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), the committee’s chairwoman. “All generations, all political persuasions.”
The witnesses included Chris J. Suggs, an activist and University of North Carolina sophomore from eastern North Carolina, and Lindsay Cooper, a recent college graduate and policy analyst for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who are both from regions recently pelted with intense hurricanes and subsequent flooding.
They also include Aji Piper, one of 21 plaintiffs, now ages 10 to 21, in a high-profile case against the federal government for allegedly violating their constitutional rights by promoting fossil fuels and forcing them later in life to live in a warming world.
“Like youth who have come before us in the civil rights movement and other social justice movements,” Piper told lawmakers, “it is often the young among us that shine the light on systems of injustice.”
Democrats held the hearing as lawmakers are preparing for the 2020 election. Turnout among young people will be key to Democrats’ chances of retaking the White House or Senate, and retaining the House.
It also comes as students across dozens of U.S. states last month skipped school to protest inaction in addressing the causes or effects of climate change.
The hearing, however, did not bring clarity to what the sort of proposals the climate committee will produce going forward. Castor has not announced the topic of the next hearing.
However, in an indication of how Democrats want to double down on the climate issue even after the recent defeat of the Green New Deal in the Senate, Castor said her committee will hold field hearings outside Washington in the future.
Unlike other environmental committees in the House, such as the Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources panels, the committee on the climate crisis is purely fact-finding. The other committees deal with actual legislation. This year, other committees have held more than a dozen hearings on various facets of climate change.
In fact, one of Castor’s own bills — to prevent the United States from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord — was advanced out of the Energy and Commerce Committee this week.
House Republicans accused Democrats of ramming through that legislation, formally introduced just at the end of March, without any hearings despite promises from Democrats to return to regular order.
“The committee did not hold a single hearing on the details and effect of the legislation,” Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a hearing. “Stakeholders have not had the ability to weigh in on the impacts of this bill.”
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), a high-ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce panel, countered that Castor’s bill committing the country to the Paris agreement was a “straightforward issue.”
“There was a push to move forward aggressively because we lost 10 years,” he added in an interview Thursday. “We lost a lot of time.”
Still, at least some Republicans, who collectively have been reluctant or outright hostile to having discussions about climate change in the past, have been more open this Congress to addressing the issue.
That shift was on display at Thursday’s hearing.
“We have an opportunity to make progress on this issue,” said the top Republican on the select climate panel, Garret Graves (La.), while emphasizing the loss of coastline in his state and his desire for “logical solutions.”
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— Interior reverses effort limit oil and gas development in Montana: After a federal court ruled to reinstate drilling leases on public land bordering Glacier National Park that had been canceled by the Interior Department in 2016 and 2017, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montana native, had planned to appeal the rulings. But the department this week filed an intent to withdraw its appeal of one case, the Missoulian reports. It is an indication of an end to the relative cautiousness at Interior of developing Montana while it was being run by Zinke.
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— Expect an "average" hurricane season: The Colorado State University’s hurricane research team has released its initial predictions for the upcoming season. It predicts a total of 13 named storms, with five that will become hurricanes and two that will be major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger), Phil Klotzbach reports for The Post. The outlook from the group signals what would be considered an “average” season.
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- The House Oversight and Reform Committee holds a hearing on the "Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security" on April 9.
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- the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment holds a hearing on the history of a consensus and causes of inaction related to climate change on April 9.
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