By Jacob Abrahamson–
The Chao Auditorium was filled nearly to capacity with students and faculty as Congressman John Yarmuth, the representative of Kentucky’s Third District, delivered a lecture and took questions about the politics of climate change this past Wednesday.
Money in politics, the workings of Congress, public action and scientific development were all covered by Yarmuth. The Democratic representative apologized in advance of the lecture for his forthcoming partisanship, but said he sees the other party to blame in many ways.
Yarmuth has a history of supporting a reform of campaign finance and it was evident in his lecture. He claimed that substantive action on climate change could not happen “until we get the money out of politics,” citing individuals such as the Koch Brothers, notable conservative donors, as a negative influence on politics.
Yarmuth also spoke of what he considers a broken system in Congress. He told the story of a bill he introduced to the energy subcommittee, of which he is a member, which contained an idea introduced and praised by Republicans many years ago. He said that this was rejected by them simply because it was now a Democratic initiative. Gazing around the auditorium, acknowledging the humor of criticizing Senator McConnell in a building which he made important contributions to, he also cited an example of Senator McConnell changing a vote which he once supported.
Yarmuth claimed that the Congress is so polarized over President Obama that nothing can get done. He said that the “lion’s share” of this polarization is due to race. With a grin on his face, he suggested that President Obama will be able to get very little done in regards to climate change if Congress remains the way it is.
“Getting in the face of” politicians and policymakers would be the defining factor if action is to happen on this issue, he said, while reminding young people in attendance that their generation is an increasingly important influence.
Yarmuth’s speech did not only focus on what he sees as the bleak outlook of Congressional action. He also discussed many new, energy-efficient technologies that are having success today. One example of this is a company which recycles window panes and reduces heating bills by 40 to 45 percent. He said this was a hopeful sign, and that the taxpayer should continue making investments in this type of research.
The development of new technology, he said, is happening rapidly, and he believes developments in the next 10-15 years will change the status quo of energy and climate change.
The lecture itself lasted only about 30 to 40 minutes, and he opened the floor up to questions when it was finished. Showing that he really enjoys answering questions, he jokingly said he was even willing to hear any citizen lobbying.
Ignoring any time limit placed upon the event, he kept answering questions for nearly an hour. The audience was clearly made up of Yarmuth supporters, as many of the questions were fairly pointed, and the mostly partisan answers were met with much applause.
Photo courtesy Rawstory.com