Sen. Udall: ‘We Now Have a New Kind of Refugee - Climate Refugees’

By Melanie Arter | April 3, 2019 | 3:44pm EDT
Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) (L-R) (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

( - Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) used his opening statement at an Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 budget request to warn about the existence of “a new kind of refugee - climate refugees” - a byproduct of climate change.

“First and foremost, this administration has abandoned all efforts to fight climate change, and you’ve personally doubled down on that by denying climate change is even a major crisis. Administrator Wheeler, climate change is a major and very real crisis,” said Udall, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.


“In fact, climate change is by far the most pressing crisis of our time. People are losing their homes, their land, their farms. We now have a new kind of refugee - climate refugees, displaced from their homes by catastrophic weather disasters like drought and floods,” he said.



The senator told Wheeler that he opposed his nomination as EPA administrator because of his background as a former lobbyist, “who has advocated for easing and even dismantling protections for public health and the environment.”

“I’m deeply troubled that as acting administrator and now as the confirmed administrator, you are continuing to implement this administration’s devastating environmental agenda,” Udall said.

He detailed recent weather events that he attributed to climate change.

“In the West, we have less precipitation. Rivers and reservoirs are running at historic lows. Dry conditions are creating more wildfires. Look at the historic devastating floods in the midwest happening as we speak. In Puerto Rico, the death toll from the destructive Hurricane Maria was 2975 American lives. The planet and the people living on it are suffering, especially those who can least afford to adapt,” Udall said.

“Yet, instead of recognizing reality, right out of the gate, this administration began an all-out assault on efforts to fight climate change, by blocking common sense proposals to limit emissions from power plants, by halting efforts to control methane from oil and gas operations, by weakening fuel economy standards, by walking away from the Paris Climate Accords,” he said.

“If you do not change course, this will be your legacy, and I don’t think history will look upon this record very kindly,” the senator warned.

“And it’s not just climate policy that is so devastating. It seems there isn’t one rock overturned at the EPA where this administration hasn’t taken an opportunity to rollback public health and environmental protections to benefit corporations and industry,” Udall said.


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