The urgent need for bipartisanship on climate change
The climate change legislation signed by President Joe Biden this month was a historic political achievement and a big step forward in America’s ability to help stop the Earth’s warming. Climate change threatens our security, our prosperity and even our freedom as much as terrorism did after 9/11. But like the climate change bills I worked on in the Senate for years, it didn’t get bipartisan support. This must change. Until he does, the responsible and sensible course is to try to pass legislation with one-party votes, which is what congressional Democrats just did.
Based on my experience as a U.S. senator, I believe the new law, the Cut Inflation Act, was passed along party lines not because the Democrats refused to reach out to the Republicans, but because Republicans were unwilling to get involved. Climate change is not a partisan issue, so legislation to address the problem should not be partisan. On every climate bill I introduced in the 1990s until early 2013 when I retired from the Senate, I sought and found a significant Republican cosponsor, du Sens. John Chafee (RR.I.) to John McCain (R-Arizona). to John Warner (R-Va.) to Lindsey Graham (RS.C.). But every time one of our proposals passed, nearly all Senate Democrats voted in favor and nearly all Senate Republicans voted against. And so, after almost 15 years of trying, we never did anything. Not much has changed in the years since 2013. Democratic senators like Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) have continued to work very hard to build bipartisan support for action on climate change, and never have. obtained.
The partisan split over such an urgent national and global crisis must end. Global warming fears are no longer based on scientific modeling, but can be seen and felt by all of us in extreme weather, greater heat, more wildfires, stronger and more frequent storms, the visible melting of polar ice and mountain snow, animal life shifting to stay alive, crops threatened in their traditional soil, as well as rising sea levels.
I call on Republicans to see climate change not as a competition between different scientists, ideologies or interest groups, but as a clear and present threat to our way of life, just as terrorism threatened us after the attacks of the September 11, 2001. The contrast between Congress’s partisan response to the threat of climate change and its non-partisan response to the terrorist attacks is stark and hopefully instructive for Congressional Republicans.
In Congress’s post-9/11 work to create the Department of Homeland Security and enact the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations to reform our intelligence agencies, there have been many disagreements, but almost none of them. was partisan. It meant we could discuss our differences (sometimes in heated disagreements) and find a way to compromise so we could do something to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11.
And we did.
This is exactly what Republicans and Democrats need to do now about climate change. The threat is real. The law just passed will help a lot, but our government will have to do a lot more to prevent future climate-caused disasters. This will be best done if members of both sides work together to find solutions.
Former Senator Joe Lieberman represented Connecticut in the United States Senate from 1989 to 2013.