All politics aside, the Republican takeover of the Senate after last week's election could have disastrous consequences.
You may be wondering just how I can make such a claim in conjunction with the phrase "politics aside." It's easy. Just look at the facts. By facts, I mean actual statements made by senators of the now majority party.
First off, there's Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Back in 2006, Inhofe compared the consensus of the scientific community that climate change is real to the Nazi's persecution of the Jews. To quote Inhofe: “It kind of reminds . . . I could use the Third Reich, the big lie." On other occasions he has carried his Nazi analogy even further and compared the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo. Not surprisingly, Inhofe claimed prior to making that statement that climate change is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Just two years ago, Inhofe published a book entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.
So what would be the logical role for such a person in the U.S. Senate? Naturally, you install him as the next chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. Bolstering him in this position of power will be the eventual Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has blatantly stated that one of his foremost priorities in office will be to get the EPA "reined in" because he feels a "deep responsibility" to stop the agency from regulating carbon emissions from coal-fueled power plants. Indeed McConnell has been among several Republican politicians who have alleged there is a "war on coal" in America.
Then there is Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Last February, Cruz told CNN that "climate change is not supported by data." He went on to further his line of thinking by calling for the removal of EPA regulations he deems as "harmful," such as those that restrict oil drilling and hydraulic fracking.
After the Republican takeover of the Senate, Cruz is likely to become the next chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, which not only has influence on matters regarding the environment but also oversees the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
An argument could easily be made that climate change is one of if not the defining issue of our time. At the beginning of this month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth and final volume of study on the issue of climate. The panel examined 30,000 studies and established with 95% certainty that the vast majority of warming since 1950 has been due to human activity. If left unabated, climate change will result in not only higher temperatures and more frequent heat waves but melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and higher levels of acidity in the world's oceans.
"Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the report's launch in Copenhagen.
The action Ban Ki-moon refers to is stated in the report, namely that humans will likely have to eliminate fossil fuel use by the end of this century. While private citizens can take actions such as switching light bulbs, reducing electricity consumption, and driving less, the kind of change that the UN report calls for can only happen at the governmental level.
Given the ascendancy of McConnell, Inhofe, Cruz, and others of the Republican Party, this kind of action now appears highly unlikely. One need only look at their comments and their continued commitment to oil and especially coal to derive this thought. One might even argue that three of the people least likely to do anything to act on climate change are now in the positions of greatest power when it comes to making decisions on the environment.
Many political pundits are still performing a post mortem on just how the Republican power grab came about. Did Democrats lose because they backed away from President Obama? Were people "voting scared" over issues such as ISIS and Ebola? The reasons almost doesn't matter. Almost.
I say that only because the result is the same. People who refuse to accept scientific consensus, either because they are unable to out of ignorance or unwilling to out of greed, have announced their intention to make very dangerous decisions.
And those decisions will have consequences for the whole world.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets