Raskin calls Republican senator 'climate fatalist' in oil industry hearing

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The Senate Budget Committee’s Democratic majority and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) took aim Wednesday at the oil industry for historically minimizing the impacts of fossil fuels on the climate in a hearing on the results of a bicameral investigation into the industry’s efforts.

In perhaps the most contentious exchange of the hearing, during which senators from both parties were cordial with Raskin, the Maryland Democrat also turned his criticism on a Republican committee member, calling Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) a “climate fatalist.”

In testimony before the committee in the first half of the hearing, Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told the panel that “[i]nstead of telling the world about the perils of global warming and working to change their business model, the companies suppressed relevant scientific findings for decades and came to challenge and contradict urgent calls by scientists to take climate change seriously as a global threat.”

“As the experts told us, this pattern of lying and evasion set the country back decades in our ability to seriously address and manage climate change,” Raskin added.

Raskin’s testimony echoes the report issued yesterday by the Senate Budget Committee and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee. The report, the continuation of an investigation that began while the latter committee was under Democratic control, alleges that the oil industry knowingly suppressed scientific evidence of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. It further claims that the industry publicly supported efforts to reduce emissions while privately working against them or relying on front groups and trade organizations to oppose them.

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee largely did not address the material in the report, with Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) calling it an inappropriate matter for the panel to review, saying “this committee doesn’t legislate climate policy.”

Johnson invoked a declaration by over 1,800 scientists that “there is no climate emergency.” Johnson has frequently touted the document, which critics have noted is signed by numerous experts in fields unrelated to climatology such as engineering. One of its highest-profile signatories, Nobel laureate Ivar Giaever, won the prize for research relating to electrical superconductors.

Johnson, who was recorded calling human-caused climate change “bullshit” in 2021, said he was a “climate realist” rather than a climate change denier, with Raskin countering that the Wisconsin senator was a “climate fatalist.”

Raskin elaborated on the exchange to reporters after the hearing, saying “mixed in with his remarks was the idea that all of this is just a product of nature and there’s nothing we can do, it’s out of our hands, and I think that is a recipe for capitulation to disaster.”

In the second half of the hearing, Sharon Eubanks, former director of the Justice Department’s tobacco litigation team, called for similar legal strategies to be used against the oil industry. She pointed to findings in the tobacco lawsuits that the industry had knowingly suppressed scientific evidence akin to the allegations made in the committees’ report on the oil industry.

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