WASHINGTON — Colorado's U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter harshly criticized Republicans in Congress on Monday for what he described as their inaction on halting global warming.
He spoke during a congressional hearing on a bill that would require President Donald Trump to develop a strong program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Some Republicans on the House Rules Committee said standards described in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change could devastate the U.S. economy, causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans and raising their cost of living.
“The cost of not doing anything is killing us too, whether it’s tourism in Colorado, tourism in Florida,” said Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat.
President Barack Obama agreed to the international accord, but President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2017. H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, would require the Trump administration to reinstate a U.S. plan to comply with the Paris Agreement.
“All I can think of is Rome burning and Nero fiddling,” Perlmutter said. “At some point there’s got to be action, and we’re not taking action.”
He mentioned, as an example, an increase in the number and strength of hurricanes as warmer ocean waters fuel the winds. Closer to his home, “wildfires in Colorado are burning like crazy,” Perlmutter said.
He said the United States had an opportunity to eliminate many of the problems when it joined nearly 200 countries in signing the Paris Agreement. The opportunity dimmed when Trump pulled out of it.
“Obviously I believe this was a big step forward and now it’s a big step back,” Perlmutter said.
Republicans on the House Rules Committee said the Climate Action Now Act might pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives during a vote planned for this week, but would never win approval in the Senate or from Trump.
“I think this is more about the politics of the moment rather than a realistic solution,” said Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican.
The Paris Agreement requires participating countries to limit carbon emissions. Obama agreed that the United States would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025, the same as 2005 levels.
Critics of the agreement at the House Rules Committee hearing called the agreement unfair because other countries that produce large emissions, such as China and India, would not be held to the same standards.
“It was unfair to the United States on the day it was signed and it is unfair today,” Cole said.
An analysis by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy organization, showed the Paris Agreement would cause the United States to lose 400,000 jobs by 2035, and a total loss to the gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion. Income loss for an average family of four would be more than $20,000, according to the analysis.
Some Democrats said other studies show the losses could be greater from global warming than compliance with the Paris Agreement.
“We’re going to suffer if we do nothing,” said Rep. Eliot L. Engel, a New York Democrat.
He mentioned reports saying the U.S. economy would shrink by 10% by the end of the century if global warming continues at the same pace.
The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is being phased in. A complete withdrawal is scheduled for next year.
The Climate Action Now Act would block federal funds from being used to withdraw from the agreement. It also would require the president to develop a plan for meeting the original U.S. commitment to the climate accord.
The bill gives the president flexibility for meeting the agreement’s goals, such as increasing the number of non-polluting wind generators and nuclear power plants that do not produce hydrocarbons.