GOP stacks Green New Deal forum with climate deniers and industry groups

Key Points
  • The Republican-dominated Congressional Western Caucus is hosting a forum on the Green New Deal on Wednesday.
  • The confirmed guests are mostly prominent climate-change deniers and industry-linked groups.
  • "It's clear to any thinking person that this isn't a serious forum," says Demond Drummer, executive director of the think tank fleshing out the Green New Deal.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and US Senator Ed Markey (R), Democrat of Massachusetts, speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, February 7, 2019.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The Congressional Western Caucus will host a forum on Wednesday that the Republican-dominated group is billing as the "first in-depth public review of the Green New Deal" by Congress.

But there is just one hitch: The list of confirmed guests is stacked with prominent climate-change deniers and representatives of industry-linked groups.

Republicans have come out forcefully against the Green New Deal, a plan put forward by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to stave off climate change by overhauling the U.S. economy and energy system. Among other things, the deal calls for generating 100 percent of U.S. power from renewable sources and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and industry in about 10 years.

In a press release, the Congressional Western Caucus says the forum will address "how a transition of this magnitude might occur, analyze how the proposal will be paid for and the estimated costs, and review the overall feasibility of and opportunities associated with the Green New Deal."

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However, comments from caucus members on the group's website suggest they have already made up their minds about the proposal.

"The Green New Deal is another climate change, socialist pipedream [sic] that attacks American jobs and our way of life," said Rep. Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the caucus, which focuses on several issues, including energy, water issues and private property rights.

The guest list for Wednesday's forum also suggests a strong bias against the plan.

It does not include any witnesses that represent the vast majority of climate scientists who say climate change is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Nor does it include representatives from U.S. government agencies that have drawn the same conclusion, lsuch as NASA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. No independent scholars or researchers who specialize in energy systems are on the list.

Instead, the witnesses include prominent climate-change skeptics, such as Myron Ebell, who led the EPA's transition team for then President-elect Donald Trump; Marc Morano, the founder of Climate Depot, a blog dedicated to challenging climate science; and Dr. David Legates, a professor of climatology at the University of Delaware who regularly speaks at gatherings of climate deniers.

The rest of the confirmed guests include representatives of industry-linked groups such as the Consumer Energy Alliance, the American Energy Alliance and the Federal Forest Resource Coalition. The libertarian group Americans for Limited Government is also scheduled to attend.

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The Congressional Western Caucus did not immediately return a CNBC request for comment about the guest list.

Ocasio-Cortez initially accepted an invitation to attend the event but later said she would be preoccupied monitoring former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Western Caucus says it invited New Consensus and the Sunrise Movement, two of the main backers of the Green New Deal, as well as the Sierra Club and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.

Representatives for New Consensus and Sierra Club told CNBC they will not attend the forum.

"It's clear to any thinking person that this isn't a serious forum," said Demond Drummer, executive director for New Consensus.

Liz Perera, climate policy director at Sierra Club, called the forum a "political circus."

"While real leaders all across the country are working to meet the American people's demands for climate action and job creation, Washington Republicans are focused on political games and sideshows to peddle conspiracy theories," she said.

The forum comes as some House committees are holding their first hearings on climate change in years after Democrats took control of the chamber last month. The GOP marginalized the issue throughout the eight years the party held the House.

To be sure, the Green New Deal does not have full buy-in from Democrats, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has appeared to cast aspersions on the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to hold a vote on the proposal in the upper chamber in order to highlight divisions among Democrats over the plan.