Swaths of the US are baking under record-breaking heat, yet some lawmakers are still attempting to block any spending to fight the climate crisis, advocates say.
Nearly 90 million Americans are facing heat alerts this week, including in Las Vegas, Nevada, which may break its all-time hottest temperature record; Phoenix, Arizona, which will probably break its streak of consecutive days of temperatures over 110F; and parts of Florida, where a marine heatwave has pushed up water temperatures off the coast to levels normally found in hot tubs.
Stifling heat is also blanketing parts of Texas, which for weeks earlier this summer sweltered under a record-shattering heat dome which one analysis found was made five times more likely by the climate crisis. Despite this, the state’s Republican senator Ted Cruz is rallying his fellow GOP members of the Senate commerce committee to circulate a memo attacking climate measures in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget, Fox News reported on Wednesday.
The memo specifically calls on Republican members of the Senate appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee to reject spending provisions focused on climate resilience and environmental justice efforts for scientific agencies. In one example, the memo objects to a Nasa request to fund its Sustainable Flight National Partnership, which seeks to help zero out planet-warming pollution from aviation.
“If the goal is to make imperceptible changes in CO2 emissions as part of the administration’s zealous effort to micromanage global temperatures, then Nasa should abandon such wasted mental energy. Nasa should not become a plaything for anti-fossil fuel environmentalists,” the memo says.
It should come as no surprise that Cruz, who has accepted massive donations from oil and gas companies, is defending the fossil fuel industry’s interests, said Allie Rosenbluth, US program co-manager at the environmental advocacy and research non-profit Oil Change International.
“What is really devastating for communities who are experiencing extreme heat, wildfires, flooding and drought across the US is that because of these bought-out politicians, they are not getting the support that they need to be resilient in the face of climate impacts at the federal level,” she said.
House Republicans are fighting climate spending, too. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers must pass a slew of spending bills before current funding expires on 30 September. But Republican members of the GOP-controlled House appropriations committee are slipping in anti-climate provisions, which aim to block renewable energy funding and imperil federal efforts to tackle the climate crisis, into their spending bill drafts.
Last week, the Clean Budget Coalition – a group of non-profits such as the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund and Public Citizen – identified at least 17 of these “climate poison pills” in appropriation bill drafts. Among them are amendments that would prevent the federal government from purchasing electric vehicles or building EV charging stations; block funding for the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries meet their climate goals under the Paris agreement; and prohibit funding for a Department of Energy initiative aiming to send 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to flow to disadvantaged communities.
What is really devastating for communities who are experiencing extreme heat, wildfires, flooding and drought is … not getting the support that they need to be resilientAllie Rosenbluth
Elizabeth Gore, senior vice-president for political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund, said these proposals will impede lawmakers’ chance to reach a budget deal before their fall deadline.
“This is not a starting point for any reasonable negotiations,” she said in a release.
Early last month, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling. David Shadburn, senior government affairs advocate at the League of Conservation Voters, said that from his perspective, that agreement didn’t include nearly enough government funding, but now, Republicans are trying to cut funding even more.
“We wanted to see more spending. We thought the deal was insufficient,” he said. “But a deal is a deal and yet what Republicans immediately did was go back on it.”
All Republican representatives can submit proposals to the House appropriations committee and no member is required to sign off on specific proposals. So it’s not clear who is responsible for each “poison pill”. But Shadburn noted that not a single Republican member of the House voted for the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included the most climate spending of any bill in US history and that Republican representatives have also repeatedly attempted to overturn the bill’s climate provisions.
“The entire House Republican conference is on the record here … [including] those representing places that are seeing extreme weather,” he said.
House Republicans also recently proposed an array of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act aiming to limit the Pentagon’s deployment of electric vehicles, Shadburn said.
One of them, which would force the defense department to terminate contracts for electric non-combat vehicles, came from Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, whose state is preparing for triple-digit heat this week. Another, which would authorize soldiers and civilians at the US army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona to use fossil fuel-powered vehicles, came from Representative Paul Gosar from Arizona, where heat last Friday was comparable to “some of the worst heatwaves this area has ever seen”, according to the National Weather Service.
“In addition to the extreme heat in the south-west and elsewhere, there’s massive flooding in Vermont and New York … yet the House this week is spending their time debating just how many climate attacks they should include in the defense authorization,” said Shadburn. “It just shows how unserious they are about doing anything significant to tackle the climate crisis.”
Source: The Guardian