Senator Whitehouse to Ceres Conference: 'Denial Castle' is Crumbling

Senator Whitehouse to Ceres Conference: 'Denial Castle' is Crumbling

With the ink barely dry on the landmark Paris COP21 agreement signed by 175 countries, one New England lawmaker sees “real cracks in denial castle” and is calling on corporations to lobby Republicans in Congress to break party ranks and take a stand on climate change.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said industry associations opposed to stronger laws curtailing fossil fuels are now the only voices being heard in Washington.

“Talking to my colleagues about climate change is like talking to prisoners about escape,” Whitehouse quipped at the opening session of a conference presented by Ceres, a sustainable investment advocacy organization.

Characterizing GOP lawmakers as lowering their voices and nervously looking around to ensure there are no witnesses to climate conversations, Whitehouse urged the 600 Ceres attendees to push their organizations to end the lobbying vacuum and reassure Republicans they have support if they soften their position.

“Give cover to the Republicans who want to do the right thing but who are only hearing from the biggest knuckleheads in the equation,” said Whitehouse.

Whitehouse credited Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for his willingness to ask other Senate Republicans why they continue to behave as though climate change was not a real concern.

In October, Graham asked a pre-presidential primary audience in New Hampshire to raise their hands if they believed climate change posed huge planetary risks.

“I do, too,” Graham said at the event, sponsored by the bipartisan group No Labels. “So here’s the trade-off. For those of you who believe climate change is real, you’re going to have to deal with a guy like me who will push a lower carbon economy over time and in a business friendly way. The great trade-off is energy producers and environmentalists in a room trying to find, over a 50-year period, a way to go to a lower-carbon economy while in the meantime responsibly exploring for fossil fuels that we own and trying to create alternative energy in every sector of the economy.”

At the Ceres event, Whitehouse pointed to momentum following the April 22 signing of the COP21 agreement at the United Nations.

“There are real cracks in denial castle.  It’s really crumbling,” Whitehouse said, adding that industry lobbying may not be as potent a force as a home state electorate angry that climate change is adversely affecting tourism.

In New Hampshire, the moose tour business cannot operate if snowmobile trails don’t have snow, and if moose are covered with ticks that were not killed during the traditional winter freeze, Whitehouse said.  The skiing and timber industries have been similarly affected by climate change in New England.