The Senate Has Voted: Climate Change Is Real, But It’s Not Our Fault

So close to capturing the reality of our climate situation, and yet so far.

The Senate Has Voted: Climate Change Is Real, But It’s Not Our Fault
[Top photo: Flickr user William Warby]

The Senate has officially voted on it: Climate change is real. There’s a catch, however. The Senate still doesn’t quite agree that humans are the cause.


The original resolution, from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), was an amendment to the bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline–a way to force Republicans to go on the record about climate change as they push the pipeline forward.

In a twist, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okl.), a climate denier who wrote a book calling climate change the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated,” decided to co-sponsor the bill at the last minute. Climate change was real, he agreed. But only the kind that happens naturally. “Man cannot change climate,” he told the room in part of a long rant.

Flickr user Gage Skidmore

The resolution passed, saying “it is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax”–but since the results were less than clear, the Senate took up a new amendment from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that spelled things out more: “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” This time, the amendment failed to go through, with only 50 of 60 votes needed to pass.

Still, there are signs that politics are shifting. A handful of Republicans agreed that humans are causing climate change. A slim majority of senators, 50 to 49, supported the resolution. That gives Schatz hope.

“Over the years, the issue of climate change has become a partisan issue,” he says. “It didn’t used to be that way and it doesn’t need to be that way going forward. We may not agree on the solutions, on the paths forward, or even on some of the details, but I do believe it’s time for us to begin to agree on a basic set of facts. That is why the vote on my amendment was important–it showed there is an emerging bipartisan group of people who believe that climate change is real and caused by humans and solvable.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.