Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, challenged her party on Wednesday morning to take climate change more seriously.
“We have to have a better discussion about climate change and the responses to it,” Murkowski said during an address at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Winter Policy Summit. “We have to not be afraid to use terms that some might say, that's politically charged. Why is it politically charged to say climate change? I see in my state the impact we have from warming temperatures.”
Murkowski added it is “fact” that global temperatures are warming in response to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, as the scientific consensus says.
The Trump administration and many Republicans downplay the impacts of climate change and say the science on the warming of the planet is imprecise.
“It is a fact when we see habitats changing because temperatures are warmer,” Murkowski said. “It is fact when sea ice that is multi-year ice is no longer in place where it has historically been. Working toward our energy future, we must be reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Murkowski said policymakers are making it more difficult to combat climate change by not acknowledging the extent of the problem.
“This conversation is difficult,” Murkowski said. “We all know it's difficult. We have to stop making it harder. Let’s stop making it harder.”
She said she recently asked a group of 18-year-old high school interns how to overcome the polarized conversation around climate change. Their message: “They said stop calling one another names,” Murkowski said. “How simple and basic is that? Let us skip the name-calling and unproductive arguments and think about energy advances that are also climate solutions.”
Murkowski says politicians should continue to promote the use of fossil fuels, because she says removing them from the grid entirely is unrealistic and costly.
She celebrated, in her speech to the state utility commissioners, her recent success in opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, which was part of the GOP tax reform legislation.
Drilling in a the long-protected refuge will enhance America's status as a "swing producer" in world oil markets, she said.
But she said energy leaders should pursue “balance,” a contrast to the “dominance” agenda flouted by the Trump administration.
“It's not enough to demand the end of use of hard carbons to keep it in the ground,” Murkowski said. “I recognize this is unrealistic and counterproductive. It would hurt all of us, particularly the poor. I want to facilitate the climate conversation going forward by helping find balance and bring facts forward. We can absolutely continue to use hydrocarbons and critical minerals and protect the environment at the same time. We can do this.”