WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (AFP) Dec 09, 2009
Republican lawmakers critical of efforts to battle climate change said they would fly next week to the Copenhagen summit to undercut President Barack Obama's promises of strong US action.
Members of Congress' minority party vowed to highlight a scandal over leaked emails from leading climate scientists which they said backed their suspicions that the global warming threat was overblown and too costly to act on.
"I will not be one of the sycophants that says climate change is the biggest problem facing the world and we need to do all these draconian things that cost jobs," Representative Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, told a news conference Tuesday.
Obama plans to head next week to the 192-nation summit in the Danish capital to pledge that the world's largest economy will cut carbon emissions blamed for global warming -- a plan he says will create jobs by building a new green economy.
While his pledges are below those of the European Union and Japan, Obama has sharply reversed course from his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, a diehard opponent of the Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations run out in 2012.
Representative James Sensenbrenner, who will head the Republican House delegation to Copenhagen, said that Obama should "lower the rhetoric" on what the United States will do under the next global agreement.
"America lost a lot of credibility when then-vice president Al Gore promised the international community in Kyoto something that he knew could never be passed by the Congress," Sensenbrenner said.
"I would hope that President Obama will not repeat Al Gore's mistake," he said.
The House of Representatives in June narrowly passed a plan to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, the same figures Obama is taking to Copenhagen.
The Senate has delayed similar legislation until next year but its author, John Kerry, has vowed to see it through and has won cooperation from at least one Republican in the chamber, Lindsey Graham.
Showing it has the ability to match words with deeds, the Obama administration on Monday empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, regardless of the debate in Congress.
Republicans threatened to fight the decision, disputing UN scientists' findings that carbon dioxide is the main culprit behind rising temperatures that threaten entire species if unchecked.
"C02 is odorless, colorless and tasteless. I'm creating C02 talking to you," Barton said. "It's not harmful to public health in the traditional sense of the term."
The lawmakers demanded a full investigation into leaked emails from US and British scientists closely involved in UN research that spoke of a "trick" to massage temperatures.
The scientists countered that the emails were illegally hacked and taken out of context, with the overwhelming evidence pointing to global warming.
Representative Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that would head any congressional investigation into the emails, said he hoped the Republicans' position would resonate with the public in Britain as it is at the center of the scandal.
But Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning Washington think-tank, doubted the Republicans would find allies in Copenhagen and noted that Britain's Conservative Party backed carbon cuts.
Obama "can communicate more loudly than just about anybody," Weiss said. "A few senators trying to deny what the rest of the world believes -- that global warming is here and it's real -- isn't going to make much difference."
At least five Republican House members and two senators will head to Copenhagen, lawmakers said.
They will be part of a congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an ally of Obama who supports fighting climate change.
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