Pelosi Forms Climate Crisis Committee to Address Threat to 'the Whole of God’s Creation'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) talks with reporters after her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Dec. 20, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — House Democrats are preparing to take control of the lower chamber next week by forming a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — but some members of the caucus aren’t happy.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the caucus’ choice for the next speaker of the House, today announced the appointment of Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to lead the select panel.

“She will bring great experience, energy and urgency to the existential threat of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement. “This committee will be critical to the entire Congress’s mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future.”

She called Castor, who has served in Congress since 2007, “a proven champion for public health and green infrastructure, who deeply understands the scope and seriousness of this threat.”

Pelosi added that “the American people have demanded action to combat the climate crisis, which threatens our public health, our economy, our national security and the whole of God’s creation.”

“Together, we must protect public health by reducing air pollution, create jobs by making America preeminent in green technologies, defend our national security by preventing climate-driven instability and uphold our sacred moral responsibility to leave a healthy, sustainable future for generations to come,” she said.

Some progressives in the Democratic caucus, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), are pushing for a “green New Deal,” which would mandate a full national transition to renewable energy within 10 years of passage. Ocasio-Cortez proposed creating a select committee to chart the path forward for that proposal, but her spokesman said today that Pelosi’s panel “sounds about as useful as a screen door on a submarine” and is “going to be completely incapable of solving the greatest threat to humankind.”

Castor seconded the nomination for Pelosi to be speaker of the House in last month’s House Democratic Caucus meeting.

Asked at a press conference last month about pushback from some Dem lawmakers about the select committee, Pelosi noted that “the climate issue was my flagship issue” last time she wielded the speaker’s gavel.

“This was a national security issue, from healthcare providers, that this was a public health issue, clean air, clean water; on our economy, that we must remain preeminent, as No. 1 in the world, on green technologies; and that it is a moral issue,” she said. “If you believe — as do I — that this is God’s creation, and evangelicals certainly do — and that we must be good stewards, then we must act upon it. Even if you don’t share that religious belief, if you understand that we have a moral responsibility to the next generation, to pass the planet on in a responsible way.”

Pelosi acknowledged that “it’s always been a challenge with the standing committees, and we will have conversations about some of the objections they may have.”

“But there is tremendous interest on the outside for us to return to that place where the climate issue is preeminent,” she added. “…Not only is it Energy and Commerce… but also Homeland Security, because this has become such an issue, hitting home by way of hurricanes, forest fires, so many different ways. So natural disasters affecting people so very directly in their lives.”

“So we do believe that it’s about stewardship of our planet. And we have to find the best way to engage the public to make the change that is necessary to put us on a different course of action.”