In challenge to Trump, 17 Republicans join fight against global warming

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seventeen congressional Republicans signed a resolution on Wednesday vowing to seek “economically viable” ways to stave off global warming, challenging the stated views of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax.

A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Republicans Elise Stefanik of New York, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania introduced the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, pledging to “study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates” and seek ways to “balance human activities” that contribute.

Several Republicans who signed the resolution, which is non-binding, represent parts of the country most affected. Curbelo hails from Miami, where streets regularly flood at high tide due to rising sea levels.

“This issue was regrettably politicized some 20 or so years ago and we are in the process of taking some of the politics out, reducing the noise and focusing on the challenge and on the potential solutions,” Curbelo said in a call with journalists on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.

Jay Butera, a congressional liaison for the non-partisan group the Citizens Climate Lobby, called the resolution “an important step toward getting both parties focused on finding solutions.”

A similar resolution was introduced by Republicans in the previous Congress, with 17 signing. Some of those lawmakers lost their re-election bids.

Trump’s newly confirmed Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, said in a CNBC interview on Thursday that he did not believe carbon dioxide was a major contributor to climate change. The Sierra Club on Tuesday asked the EPA’s inspector general to investigate whether Pruitt violated agency policy by making the comments.

“The head of the EPA’s comments were disconcerting,” Curbelo said. “What he said was akin to saying the earth is flat in 2017. We must insist on evidence-based and science-based policies.”

Curbelo said some Trump allies were ready to work on fixing climate change but he declined to identify them.

The resolution came amid growing concern and confusion over the way Trump’s environmental policies were taking shape. After calling climate change a hoax and vowing during the 2016 presidential race to pull the United States out of Paris climate accord if elected, Trump asked energy companies for advice on whether to indeed withdraw.

And his call on Wednesday for a new review of U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards put in place under former President Barack Obama drew criticism from Democrats and environmental groups who accused him of risking more carbon emissions and higher fuel costs.

Two sources told Reuters the administration has been contacting U.S. energy companies about the climate agreement and would consider their input in making a decision on it shortly.

An overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity - including the burning of oil, gas and coal - is the main driver of rising global temperatures. Most Republicans either dispute that or disagree that it is an urgent problem.

Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director, said her group would keep an eye on how Republicans who signed the resolution voted on more impactful legislation.

“We’ve seen that many of the Republicans sponsoring this resolution have voted against climate action in the past, so their real commitment will be measured by how they vote on legislation that undermines climate progress or promotes fossil fuel projects moving forward,” she said.

Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Howard Goller, Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker