Mississippi Senators need to think out of climate ‘box’


Nobody likes to be stereotyped, but there are a few assumptions about southern states that are pretty accurate.

We have some of the best food in the country; agriculture is an important part of our culture and our economy; and we have some of the most reliably-conservative voters in the nation.

In each case, Mississippi fits right in with its southern neighbors Florida and South Carolina. All three also are coastal states, prone to damaging hurricanes and flooding, and projected to be increasingly vulnerable in the warmer future we are headed towards.

One interesting difference between Mississippi and these two other southern states is that politicians from South Carolina and Florida tend to be a bit more independent.

Case in point, Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Senator Graham has a long history of acting outside the box on many issues, including the environment.

It was over a decade ago that he joined with Democrats John Kerry (MA) and Joe Lieberman (CT) to write the Senate version of a cap-and-trade bill.

This attempt to reduce carbon pollution provided much needed American leadership, leading ultimately to the groundbreaking Paris Climate Accords of 2016.

And while he did take some heat from South Carolina hard-liners for working with the other party, Sen. Graham remained popular enough to continue winning elections.

Fast forward to 2017, and Sen. Graham joined his colleagues John McCain (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME) as the only Republican Senators to join the Democrats in limiting emissions of methane from oil and gas drilling operations.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide does, so this legislation was very important for protecting our future generations.

And now in 2019, over a decade after his first call for climate action, Lindsey Graham has been joined by Marco Rubio in breaking stereotypes and leading the way for their party.

These two southern legislators have just joined fellow Republicans Mike Braun (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mitt Romney (UT) along with Democratic colleagues in forming the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.

This is the first such forum for Senators from opposing parties to discuss solutions for global warming together.

While Senators Rubio and Graham are taking action to safeguard their southern coastal constituents, one has to wonder what would it take to get one of our Mississippi Senators to do the same?

As a Gulf Coast state, we will be seeing more of the heavy rainfall events and hurricanes that will come with warming waters. Projected impacts range from Delta crop damages to coastal residential displacement and the loss of our important Gulf fisheries.

These are real Mississippi jobs and real neighborhoods that will be increasingly threatened by a warmer, higher sea level in the coming decades.

Mississippi deserves strong advocacy from its U.S. Senators, and they need only look a few states over to the east to see what that looks like from Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

Chris Werle is a Lamar County resident who is leader of the Hattiesburg chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby. Send him an email today at hattiesburg@citizensclimatelobby.org.