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Climate change: Democrats see Trump, GOP inaction as 2020 opportunity

WASHINGTON –  Environmental advocates say now is the time for decisive action on climate change.

Democrats won the House in November riding a platform that included a call to address the crisis. Global warming was blamed for intensifying natural disasters that killed dozens and cost billions of dollars across the country in 2018. A recent avalanche of evidence that the climate is already changing radically has hardened the case for immediate action.

“Climate change is here and now. And palpably getting worse. That is rapidly changing how Americans think about it,” David Doniger with the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in a recent blog. “The shift from ‘future problem’ to ‘now crisis’ is being fueled by blockbuster scientific reports and blockbuster real-world catastrophes.”

And yet few – including Doniger – expect Washington to do much any time soon in the dramatic way scientists are urging.

President Donald Trump, who in 2017 yanked the U.S. out of the Paris Accord on climate change, continues to doubt the science and says radical action would only hurt the economy. At an international climate conference in Poland in December, his emissaries doubled down on the expansion of fossil fuels, notably coal.

And while incoming House Democratic leaders vow to make climate change a priority when they take control Thursday, their most ambitious proposals are expected to die in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republicans remain resistant to far-reaching steps aimed at weaning the nation off carbon.

So for Democrats and their environmental allies, the next two years in Washington are likely to be more about making a case to voters than actually scoring significant victories on climate change, said Bob Shrum, a longtime Democratic strategist who teaches political science at the University of Southern California.

“I don’t think Trump’s going to give an inch on this,” he said. “I think we’ll be at a stalemate (for the next two years). But I think Democrats can prepare the ground, can win the argument and can go into 2020 on these issues in a pretty strong position.”

Studies suggest there isn’t much time for politicking on the issue. Some of the effects are already taking place, according to a landmark climate assessment the administration released in November.

Climate change is contributing to extreme weather conditions,  the spread of new diseases by insects and pests and changes to the availability of food and water, the researchers say.

But the dire warning has done little to prod Capitol Hill Republicans, many of whom still question the science behind climate change.