Analysis: Lisa Murkowski – a rare Republican voice for climate action



Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. Photo credit: National Congress of American Indians via Flickr


By Anders Lorenzen

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has recently angered Donald Trump and won praise from the Democratic Party, as well as from liberal leaning news outlets, in voting against repealing Obamacare, though it is likely she would support it in another form.

So is the Alaskan Senator now an ally in the fight against Trump?

It appears that on the issue of climate change, she at least offers a more moderate position than many of her Republican colleagues in the Senate. That is that she actually accepts the science behind climate change.

In June, just after Donald Trump had announced that he is pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, she said that the US has an obligation to help address climate change, whether it is part of the international route through the Paris Agreement or not. This is a controversial position to take in a Republican party, where the majority does not accept the science behind climate change, and it is a decision which could risk isolating her within the party.

Senator Lisa Murkowski is from Alaska, the state which is already feeling the impact most in the US due to ice melting in the Arctic. She said that she worried about the potential diplomatic repercussions of not addressing climate change. She hopes the US does not fall back on its efforts to address and mitigate the impact resulting from a warming climate, stating: “Because we see it here in this state, and it is real, and I think we’ve got an obligation to help address it. So whether you’re in the confines of Paris or not, we need to continue to make the commitment as a country to address the impacts that we’re seeing.”

People who care about tackling climate change might think twice about supporting her position against Trump’s climate change and environmental agenda, as she has been a vocal supporter of the fossil fuel industry. She supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and in general, she wants the Alaskan Arctic to be open for more fossil fuel exploration. She has also introduced a bill that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and she was critical of Obama for what she called his sole focus on combating climate change in Alaska. She supports clean energy technologies and energy innovation, but within her all-embracing strategy of favouring all kinds of energy production.

People could look at her views and say they contradict each other. Perhaps no voice is more insistent in highlighting the impact of climate change felt in Alaska, this while at the same time supporting more fossil fuel exploration, and in the fragile and environmentally sensitive Alaskan Arctic.

But she might just open up useful space for more bipartisan discussion on tackling climate change.


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