On June 18, 2014 American Security Project Board Member and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Christine Todd Whitman testified on climate change in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Security. Whitman was joined by three other former EPA heads, the Attorney General of Alabama, and two professors of biology and banking in a heated discussion about the recently released EPA regulations on carbon emissions from power plants.
In her opening statement, Whitman stressed that climate change is not just an environmental and economic concern but a matter of national security for the U.S, a sentiment echoed by her three EPA colleagues. Former EPA administrator William Reilly referenced a recent Washington Post article about Norfolk, Virginia’s struggle with rising seas and the endangered Navy base there as evidence of the security problems created by climate change.
“Climate change also has very real implications for our national security, and those concerns must be an important part of the discussion” – Christine Whitman
Most of the hearing was spent in partisan fights over science. Republican senators cited what they called “flawed science” and “alarmist reports” as reasons to fight and reverse the EPA regulations. Senator David Vitter proposed that even if claims about climate were true, the U.S alone can do little about it given the amount of carbon emitted by developing countries like China, India, and Brazil. Moreover, added Senator John Barrasso, President Obama’s weak foreign policy makes it unlikely that he will be able to stand up to the world’s largest carbon emitters.
The four former EPA administrators, all Republicans, countered this claim. They cited U.S. leadership in the fight against ozone depleting pollutants in the 1990’s as evidence of America’s ability to successfully influence global climate change policy by acting first. The four had made this case in an op-ed, “A Republican Case for Climate Action,” published in the New York Times in August, 2013. Both Reilly and EPA colleague William Ruckelshaus restated this position in their testimonies. Reilly contended that if the U.S. is to have the credibility to negotiate with other countries on climate change, it will need to act first. Ruckelshaus spoke in support,
“We like to speak of American exceptionalism. If we want to be truly exceptional then we should begin the difficult task of leading the world away from the unacceptable effects of our increasing appetites for fossil fuels before it is too late.”
Watch the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety hearing “Climate Change: The Need to Act Now”