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Mike Pompeo Is a Disaster for the Planet. Why Do Democrats Back Him?

We must pressure Democrats who have backed the CIA director nominee to change course

By Sarah Meyerhoff

Ignorant, dangerous, and absolutely unbelievable.” This is how Mike Pompeo, then the nominee for CIA director, described the idea that climate change threatens our nation’s security in his 2017 Senate confirmation hearings. It’s also how our generation and many to come will remember any senator who votes to confirm Pompeo as our next secretary of state.

photo of Mike PompeoPhoto by Gage SkidmoreMike Pompeo accepted nearly $1.5 million from fossil fuel companies between 2009 and 2017.

Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Pompeo to replace the former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson signals loud and clear that he wants fossil fuel barons to continue running our government and state department. Infamous as the “congressman from Koch,” Pompeo is the top all-time recipient of Koch Industries campaign contributions; he accepted nearly $1.5 million from the fossil fuel companies between 2009 and 2017.

In exchange for these payments, he used his tenure in the House of Representatives to stymie progress on climate action, curry favors for big oil and gas, and regularly spread misinformation and lies about climate science to help pad the Koch brothers’ pocketbooks.

There’s no doubt that Pompeo, widely recognized as a militant climate denier and “yes man” to the president, will pick up where Tillerson left off in gutting the department’s climate diplomacy programs and opening the fragile Arctic to drilling for oil and gas that humanity can’t afford to burn.

And though it seems unthinkable that any secretary of state could be worse for the planet than the former CEO of Exxon, Pompeo is even more extreme than Tillerson in his climate denialism and his opposition to the Paris climate agreement (from which Tillerson urged Trump not to withdraw).

What’s more, as warming global temperatures spawn extreme weather events, fuel mass migration, exacerbate humanitarian crises, and undercut global stability, Pompeo’s anti-Muslim and anti-woman stances, war-hawkishness, and abysmal record on human rights will further endanger billions of people who are hit first and hardest by climate impacts.

With only a few years left to avert catastrophic warming, every single vote to confirm Mr Pompeo is a vote to protect profits of big oil billionaires and destroy the lives and livelihoods of millions around the world. Yet, 66 senators voted to approve Pompeo for his current position as CIA director, including 15 Senate Democrats, the party whose members are most worried about climate change. This includes the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, centrists Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, and supposed climate champion Sheldon Whitehouse.

While Democratic lawmakers hit Pompeo hard on a range of foreign policy and human rights questions in Thursday’s confirmation hearing, climate change was hardly mentioned, and so far, only a handful of senators have come out publicly against Pompeo’s pending nomination.

If every Senate Democrat votes against Pompeo, we could stop him from helping Trump continue to put the interests of big oil executives over those of everyday Americans. We need a grassroots groundswell to make this happen.

Over 20,000 young people and citizens across our country have written letters to six of these Democratic senators, which we, along with Climate Hawks Vote, delivered last week to their Capitol Hill offices. Bowing to grassroots pressure, Senators Tina Smith and Brian Schatz vowed to vote against Pompeo’s confirmation at a Wednesday rally alongside Senator Bernie Sanders and activists from MoveOn, Win Without War, J Street, Indivisible, Sunrise, and many other ally organizations.

Ahead of Pompeo’s confirmation vote, young Sunrise leaders across the country are stepping up the pressure on their senators, imploring them to stand by their values and with our generation.

Our efforts will continue long after Pompeo’s nomination battle. To politicians claiming to care about our generation — blocking the Koch Brothers’ most loyal lapdog is a bare minimum. Right now, we’re building an army of young people to end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.

In schools, houses of worship, small towns, and big cities across the country, young people are mobilizing by the thousands to make climate action an urgent priority and unseat politicians who accept donations from fossil fuel executives.

From big oil to the NRA, young people in this country are tired of the failed politics that have sold out our futures for short-term profits. An overwhelming 80 percent of millennials support moving to mostly clean and renewable energy by 2030, and we know that we can make the jump while creating millions of good jobs and a brighter tomorrow for all Americans in the process. If our elected officials refuse to recognize this momentum and take action to protect our rights and lives, then we will replace them with leaders who will.

Here, then, is a list of Democrats who voted to approve Pompeo for his current position as CIA director:

Donnelly (Indiana)

Feinstein (California)

Hassan (New Hampshire)

Heitkamp (North Dakota)

Kaine (Virginia)

King (Maine independent; caucuses with Democrats)

Klobuchar (Minnesota)

Manchin (West Virginia)

McCaskill (Missouri)

Reed (Rhode Island)

Schatz (Hawaii)

Schumer (New York)

Shaheen (New Hampshire)

Warner (Virginia)

Whitehouse (Rhode Island)

The Guardian
The Guardian UK, one of Britain's top daily newspapers, provides coverage of international environmental issues. Earth Island Journal is a member of the Guardian's Environment News Network.

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