On Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked President Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy. But as Republican obstructionism goes, this wasn't your everyday obstructionism. Republicans actually boycotted a committee vote to deny a quorum, prompting committee chair, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, to proclaim that Republicans should "Get out of the fringe lane."
Republicans wouldn't even let the nominee out of committee. But here's the other reason blocking this nomination is so extraordinary: Gina McCarthy is currently the assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA. In other words she is the head of EPA's air pollution regulation efforts, and as head of the EPA would have the authority, as its current head does, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon—an idea that Republicans and their fossil fuel backers really hate. That's why the committee's ranking Republican, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, and his brethren, want McCarthy and the EPA to first answer more than 1,000 questions about the "underlying data used to justify the EPA's job killing regulations."
You see, the EPA is our best shot right now at regulating carbon and regulating carbon is pretty damn important considering the milestone we are approaching. We learned that we are about to pass 400 parts per million in the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. That may not mean anything to you it certainly didn't mean anything to me. So here's the context for it. The last time that we had 400 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere wasn't a century ago, wasn't a thousand years ago and it wasn't ten thousand years ago.
It was 800,000 years ago, according to ice core records of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's now higher it is than any other period of time over the past 800,000 years. And in fact, even that is an understatement. What's more likely, is that the last time we hit those levels of carbon in the atmosphere was about three to five million years ago, otherwise known as the Pliocene era.
Now I don't know much about the Pliocene era but average temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees higher than today's with sea levels between 5 and 40 meters higher than today. And yes, there were mammoths. So pro, A lot of mammoths. Con, hot as balls. With as a bonus, really, extraordinarily high sea levels, particularly if that kind of sea level rise were to happen again today. But of course that doesn't matter to Republicans because they're either so in the pocket of big carbon that they want to deny it or they've decided, as some might put it, that God won't allow us to ruin the earth.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who offered a stunning 17 minute answer to that un-named person's statement, including the notion that any God who gave us earth also gave us its natural laws. If no divine power stops gravity from operating, no divine power will stop the heating of our planet, when we know that are putting an element into the atmosphere at outrageous levels, that will lead to an untenably hot planet.
It's time for Republicans to get out of the fringe lane, out of the pocket of big carbon, and into reality. Before we're all riding woolly mammoths underwater.