More hot air coming out of the Senate

Tom Bonan, Opinions Editor

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The 114th Congress has now taken office and is in full legislative swing. As a result, the last week has been eventful, which is usually the case following the president’s State of the Union Address. Changes are especially noted in the Senate, where Republicans gained control during last November’s mid-term elections.

A heated debate currently taking place in the Senate regards the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline that would bring oil from tar-sand deposits in Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. While the pipeline is not especially important–there is already an existing pipeline from Canada that runs through the Dakotas and Nebraska, as well as rail lines that currently transport the oil–the project has now taken on a symbolic role within the climate change “debate.”

Twice in the last week, the Senate voted on two amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone pipeline: one that affirms the “existence” of climate change and one that states that said climate change is a result of human action. The former passed by a vote of 98 to one, while the latter lost 54 to 46, with all 54 “no” votes coming from Republican senators.

On the surface, this seems like a huge victory for scientists and environmentalists; 98 senators voted to uphold a core scientific belief that many Americans do not accept. In reality, though, all the vote really shows is that there is at least one senator who does not read the newspaper and may even be illiterate.

The direct ramifications of this amendment not passing are few, but it does highlight some of the glaring social problems the United States is facing. The party in charge of the highest branch of the most powerful government in the world is not being lead by reason and facts, but are instead guided by “gut instinct,” propaganda, and unjustified “belief.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, even stated back in October that he is “not a scientist” and therefore could not take a “stance” on global warming. The man is a walking contradiction; while he concedes that he is not a scientist and does not fully understand the issue, he does not yield to their recommendations or policy initiatives. And he is now one of the most powerful figures in our government.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, two opposing forces are now dominating the legislative session: outside money and party extremism, both of which are in direct opposition to any mitigation of global climate change. A national trend of scientific illiteracy and skepticism has existed in the United States since the age of Charles Darwin, and this has also had a major effect on policy. McConnell is really just a product of these various forces, but plays a huge role in how they manifest themselves through legislation.

Anthropogenic climate change is the most pressing issue facing the world, and leaders like Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot and McConnell have consistently demonstrated their willful ignorance of these issues despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One of the most fulfilling aspects of science is there are these fundamental truths regardless of what you “believe” to be true. This is also the most depressing fact about the climate change “debate”: both sides are not equal. One side is ignorant and the other is catastrophically aware. Only one of these groups can start a reversal and avoid profound damage to the earth, its inhabitants, and the economy, but unfortunately we are stuck with the incredulous 54.

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