Email #182: “a healthy environment”?

You wrote in your June 1 press release supporting the President’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement:

“We all want a healthy environment to pass down to the next generation, and we should continue to work toward this goal on the international front in a way that preserves both the American economy and the environment.”

This is reasonable position expressed in a reasonable tone, which I appreciate. However, I’m not sure how it aligns with your voting record.

In 2016, 38 environment-related bills came before the House and you voted against “a healthy environment” each time. You voted the same way on all of the 35 bills in 2015 too. The League of Conservation Voters give you a lifetime score of 6%, meaning you voted for legislation that failed to preserve the environment 94% of the time. If my math is right, that’s 416 out of 336 bills in your quarter century in the House.

I agree that preserving “both the American economy and the environment” are important. But in what sense are you continuing “to work toward this goal” given your extremely lopsided record? If you really “want a healthy environment to pass down to the next generation,” what exactly are you doing to achieve it?

You said you opposed the Paris Agreement because it “puts significant burdens on the U.S. while we have already taken substantial steps in reducing CO2 emissions in our country.” But you opposed those very steps. In 2009, you voted against enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. When the American Clean Energy and Security Act came before the House, you said its consequences would be

“devastating for the future of the economy of this country. It’s a fantasy that this legislation will turn down the thermostat of the world by reducing CO2 gas emissions when China & India & other nations are pumping more CO2 gas into the atmosphere all the time. We would be far better served with legislation that devotes itself to developing new technologies before we slam the door on our traditional sources of energy like coal and oil and nuclear power. We support the effort for energy efficiency. We do not support this kind of suicide for the American economy.”

The act passed, and the economy did not commit “suicide.” You were verifiably wrong eight years ago. Why do you believe you’re right now? You also said that reducing CO2 emissions was hopeless without getting countries like China and India on board. The Paris agreement did exactly that. Withdrawing from it now undermines the progress that’s been made and returns us to “fantasy.”

It’s also inaccurate to argue that preserving the environment and preserving business interests are opposing goals. Top American business executives, including even former Exxon CEO, Secretary of State Tillerson, support the Paris Climate Agreement. They want America to be globally competitive on new energy technologies.

How then is the President’s decision “the right move”?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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