Indiana Republican Mike Braun said he didn't hesitate when Delaware Democrat Chris Coons asked him to help start a new caucus to encourage bipartisan action on climate change.
The new Senate Climate Solutions Caucus announced by U.S. Sens. Braun and Coons is a welcome response to one of the world's biggest challenges.
“Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security,” former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats warned earlier this year, “contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.”
The two senators appear to understand that in order to look for climate change solutions, they must first find a way to move the debate past mindless denials of the problem. “Our caucus seeks to take the politics out of this important issue,” they wrote in an oped for The Hill, a Washington, D.C., news site.
Braun wasn't quite as blunt as fellow Hoosier Coats had been, but the freshman senator came down firmly on the side of those who accept climate change as settled science, as The Journal Gazette's Brian Francisco reported. “If you're not accepting the basic chemistry and physics that when you put carbon into the atmosphere you're creating a greenhouse effect, I think this is probably not the right place to be,” Braun said of the new group.
Simply by insisting the Senate face up to the issue, Braun, who has described himself as a conservative who's also a conservationist, is showing political courage. He may have put himself at odds with both President Donald Trump and another fellow Hoosier, Vice President Mike Pence, who insist any problem is overblown. In an interview with CNN this summer, for instance, Pence asserted the United States is making great progress on environmental issues and the real problem is inaction by countries like China and India.
But Coons and Braun wisely emphasize that both the dangers of climate change and the solutions to the problem may lie much closer to home.
“Studies have indicated that in less than 50 years, nearly 7,000 Delawareans could see their homes destroyed by flooding caused by rising sea levels,” they wrote. “Some of Delaware's largest industries rely on stable, predictable weather to function and remain profitable.”
But Indiana, they noted, “is one of the largest agriculture and manufacturing states in the country where 70% of our energy relies on coal. This is why it is critical that Indiana be represented at the table to make sure that progress on environmental policy is balanced by the need to continue building good-paying Hoosier jobs.”
In an open letter last week, a group of Indiana faith leaders lauded Braun's and Coons' announcement and called on Hoosiers to support the effort.
“Responding to climate change is our moral responsibility and civic duty,” said the letter, whose signees included Rev. Kimberly Koczan-Flory, Rev. Dr. Timothy C. Murphy, Rev. Ann L. Pitman and Rev. Brian Flory of Fort Wayne and Pastor Darryl Emowry of Angola. “We are heartened to hear that our senator is taking a lead on one of the most important challenges of our time.”
Congressional consensus on the steps needed to address climate change is vital. By trying to pull the discussion out of the swamp of partisanship, Braun is serving his state, his country – and his party.