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.
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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.
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 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.
Trump has called climate change a hoax to weaken U.S. business and said during his 2016 presidential campaign that he wanted to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.
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 and Bill Trott)