Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH Energy Director and Aparajita Datta, UH Researcher
The breakthrough in negotiations between US Senate Democrats on the climate bill surprised many and refocused the climate debate across the country. If the law, also known as the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, passes fiscal reconciliation, it could potentially cut US emissions by 40% by 2030.
Despite the benefits the law can bring to national security, economic and energy independence, it has not received support from Republicans. Lawmakers in red states have remained oblivious to climate legislation for decades. The impasse on climate change is not new, but the scale of the legislative paralysis is. Right and left are more polarized today than at any time in the past 50 years. Therefore, in politics, climate change has become a prime example of the “American state of emergency” – the notion that the United States is inherently different from other countries. Hyperpolarization threatens our way of life, the economy and our position as a world leader.
In the current landscape, certain recurring questions arise. First, where are the powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary limited? More recently, Republican arguments against executive action on climate change were upheld by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in its West Virginia v. EPA, which prevents the agency’s regulator from reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Interestingly, the view that Congress should pass legislation and allocate funds for climate action — rather than the president and federal agencies — appears to be held by a majority of Americans (61%) . But what does this gap mean for policy-making in a narrow-majority Congress, and is there reasonable middle ground for US climate policy?
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In March, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed new climate disclosure rules that would require publicly traded U.S. companies to quantify, record, and disclose climate-related financial risks and impacts in their declarations and their annual reports. The proposed mandate aims to increase investor confidence by providing accurate information about a company’s financial health and risks in a transparent and consistent format. Shortly after, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in an interview that “climate disclosures are already happening and investors are already using climate risk information. But there is no single way to disclose climate risks, making it difficult for investors to make meaningful comparisons. Businesses and investors would also benefit from clear traffic rules. Our job is to ensure consistency and comparability.
But Gensler, who was nominated by President Joe Biden, ran into swift opposition from his Republican peers. SEC Commissioner Hester Pierce opposed the proposed rules in a public statement titled “We are not the securities and Surroundings Commission – at least not yet.
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The SEC solicited public comments on the proposed rules between March 21 and June 17, and more than 4,400 were filed. We analyzed comments using natural language processing (NLP) methods. Members of Congress submitted 14 comments, with the signatures of 215 Republican and 152 Democrat lawmakers. We examined these comments in more detail through further qualitative and quantitative analysis.
analysis the most likely topics in a document mapped as a probability distribution. A quick look at the analysis seemed to reveal some overlap between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. However, a closer look at terms that would most likely appear together, such as Emissions, investor, climate, justice and environment, revealed the divergent political priorities of the parties. Conditions Justice and environment were not dominant issues in Republican filings, while the others underscore the extraordinary partisan divide on the issue.
The mood and tone of the Democrats’ filings indicate they welcomed and supported the SEC’s efforts. However, they also proposed changes, citing that the rules did not go far enough to address material climate-related disclosures, in particular the inclusion of climate-related lobbying and lobbying activities. US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, called the omission a startling omission and a missed opportunity for the SEC.
In stark contrast, Republicans asserted that the SEC lacked the legal authority to enact the proposed rules. GOP says new rules violate First Amendment, don’t reflect reasoned decision-making and fail random and capricious exam by the courts. House and Senate Republicans have argued in their letters to the SEC that unelected SEC regulators do not have the power to make policy — elected members of Congress do.
Their views were echoed by attorneys general from 24 Republican states in a supplemental filing to the SEC, citing the late-crafting West Virginia Supreme Court ruling against the EPA and urging the SEC to drop the proposed rules. . Prior to the ruling, the SEC had found a likely ally in the EPA. In a filing with the SEC, the EPA said it supports the proposed rules and use of the greenhouse gas reporting program and that the commission has broad powers to enact disclosure requirements that are necessary or appropriate in the public interest or to protect investors.
A notable exception to this political divide was Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat serving in West Virginia. In a letter to President Gensler, Manchin followed up on issues and sentiments raised by Republicans in Congress. Manchin emphasized that he firmly believes that “the SEC has a duty and responsibility to every American to uphold its mission and prevent the collapse of our American economy; Unfortunately, however, this duty and responsibility is compromised when the Commission issues rules that appear to politicize a process designed to assess the financial health and compliance of a public company.
With an equally polarized electorate, it’s no surprise that a recent Pew Research Center analysis found that 82% of Republicans believe Biden’s climate policies are leading the country in the wrong direction, while 79% of Democrats believe that the president moves the country forward. the right direction is guiding the right direction on climate change. The split prevailed before Biden took office. A poll conducted by the University of Houston at the start of the 2020 presidential election found that a majority of respondents are concerned about climate change and support cutting emissions, but the devil is in the details. While 96% of voters on the left are concerned about climate change, just over half (58%) of those on the right say the same. While that divide may seem wide, the gap between right-wing and left-wing voters has narrowed in recent years with growing bipartisan voter support for embracing carbon stewardship to mitigate climate change. What voters cannot agree on is decarbonization.
While Americans often lament the loss of impartiality in Washington, DC, most are willing to condone undemocratic behavior in order to achieve their party’s political goals and to place party loyalty above all else. The result is political maneuvering and the disintegration of democratic processes: issues like climate change are presented as a zero-sum game – what one gains, the other must lose. As a result, we are left with problems that will never be solved. Lawmakers and voters argue endlessly over the winners and losers of every policy proposal, leaving no room for rational middle ground.
Meanwhile, the verdict of the reactions to the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rules is unequivocal. A new manifestation of the extraordinary and untenable partisan split on major political issues permeates all branches of government. Voters and politicians have lost sight of the fact that climate change is aligning the collective goals of voters while at the same time parties are moving away from the ideological center. Absent bipartisan efforts to reach rational common ground, American exceptionalism in the fight against climate change is likely to continue, and wild swings of the political pendulum are to be expected.
 A latent Dirichlet allocation algorithm is an unsupervised learning algorithm that maps a user-defined number of topics shared by documents into a corpus of text as a probability distribution.
 The test of arbitrariness or arbitrariness set out in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of 1946, which directs courts reviewing the actions of public authorities to strike down any regulation they deem “arbitrary, unpredictable, abuse of power or otherwise inconsistent” with the law.
 The study found that only 3.5% of American voters would vote against their favorite candidate as punishment for undemocratic behavior.
Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti is Director of Energy at the University of Houston. Prior to his current role, Krishnamoorti served as Acting Vice President of Research and Technology Transfer for UH and the UH System. During his tenure at the university, he served as Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UH Cullen College of Engineering, Associate Dean of Engineering Research, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with associated appointments as Professor of Petroleum Engineering and Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Krishnamoorti received his BSc in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Madras and his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University in 1994.
Aparajita Datta is an energy researcher at UH and holds a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Political Science with a specialization in public policy and international relations. His research focuses on policy dissemination and feedback analysis to improve energy equity and equity for low-income communities in the United States. Aparajita holds a BS in Computer Science and Engineering from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, India; and a master’s degree in energy management and public policy from the University of Houston.
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