In the News
November 1, 2017
By Joshua Emerson Smith
San Diego Rep. Scott Peters has joined a large delegation from California traveling to Vatican City this weekend for a conference focused climate change driven disasters and how to reach out to those impacted.
The event, which includes Gov. Jerry Brown, is part of an ongoing effort by Pope Francis and UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan to win the hearts and minds of those they believe will be most hurt by global warning, namely poor and middle-class families.
The conference, held Thursday through Saturday, will be streamed live on YouTube. Peters is slated to speak Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, following Brown.
According to an advanced copy of Peters’ speech, the congressman will focus on building support among Republicans for addressing the worst implications for a warming planet.
“When I have a beer with my Republican colleagues, they will generally acknowledge that they are aware of climate change and that human activities are driving that change,” his speech says. “But they fear losing their elections.
“In a swing seat, a moderate stance by a Republican on climate may limit the ability to raise campaign money.”
The following is a conversation with the congressman about this theme:
Union-Tribune: In your speech you lay out a detailed argument for why conservatives deny the existence of human-cause climate change to win reelection. Specifically, you talk about the wave of challenges that Republican lawmakers have seen in primary elections from far-right candidates. However, you also quote polling that found about 70 percent of Republican’s believe in climate change and 53 percent think it’s being caused by humans.
What do you think is driving this potential disconnect between voter’s personal opinions and the types of candidates they back for office?
Peters: Unfortunately, the most extreme voters are often the most motivated voters, and thus the ones that get the most attention from candidates. And more moderate voters don’t always see climate as their most important issue. That’s why it’s so important for trusted voices across the country to sound the alarm bell on climate.
Union-Tribune: You mentioned in your speech that elected officials are paying attention to an increase in natural disasters linked to global warming — such as devastating hurricanes and flooding — especially when it impacts their constituents. You also said that many of your Republican colleagues acknowledge in private conversations a belief in human-driven climate change.
Can you elaborate more on those interactions? Have members of Congress who’ve run on a platform that includes denying aspects of climate change also expressed concern to you about how warming and associated natural disasters hurt the people they represent?
Peters: One of the first votes I took in Congress was to approve $60 billion off budget for superstorm Sandy. There simply is no denying that more of these storms are happening, and that they’re extremely expensive. Those are just the facts. So if we can’t get Republicans to agree that the causes of these extreme weather events are human-induced, at a minimum we might be able to get them to agree on the need for resiliency, good planning and smart budgeting. I hope that’s a first step.
Union-Tribune: You wrote in your speech that the “trusted voices” that can shift the public dialogue on climate change include scientists, state and local governments, businesses, Republicans no longer in office, United States Armed Forces, news media and the church.
Many of these groups have for years seemingly struggled to control the narrative around climate change. In fact, in your speech you outline how in the last decade the issue of global warming has transformed from one of significant bipartisan consensus to one of extreme political divisiveness.
Do you think this is changing? If so, how?
Peters: I sense a change in the Republican establishment, and in the involvement of the church. I hope that each of these forces tugs on the conscience of Republican elected officeholders so that we can work in a bipartisan way to mitigate climate change.
Republicans have acknowledged that the climate is changing. This means we can plan as a country for more severe fires and storms, sea level rise and food supply disruptions. A number of Republicans have joined the climate solutions caucus, a bipartisan group now up to 60 members. So far, this is not produced any mitigation policy, but at least it’s a forum to talk about what we do to slow the rate of climate change.