Arkansas Republican goes out on a limb in Congress with one trillion tree pitch

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- A green offensive in the war on climate change. Republicans in the House of Representatives are introducing legislation they say will help capture carbon and reduce the impact of greenhouse gases. A former forester is leading the charge.

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) wants to plant one trillion trees to help capture atmospheric carbon. (Source: Gray DC)

“I found out I’m the only person in the House that went to forestry school,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR).

It is a passion project for the House’s foremost tree expert. Westerman thinks planting one trillion trees across the world will lead to eliminating carbon in the atmosphere. His introduction of the One Trillion Trees Act stems from a Swiss study that shows the effort could remove two-thirds of all man made carbon since the Industrial Revolution. Westerman claims there will be little to no added cost for taxpayers because private companies will pitch in.

“Teddy Roosevelt said it a long time ago that trees are the lungs of the earth and they’re really the most efficient and effective and widespread tool that we have to remove atmospheric carbon,” said Westerman.

The legislative offensive comes after President Trump touted the idea in his State of the Union Address in early February. But Westerman sits in the minority in the House. He only has Republican cosponsors as of now, though he claims he is hearing interest from Democrats.

“If there’s anything that should be bipartisan it should be trees and how we are better stewards of the environment,” said Westerman.

Westerman believes putting a cap on emissions for the fossil fuel industry is a gut-punch to the economy. He prefers his nuanced approach. But the National Resource Defense Council Action Fund says filling forests is not nearly enough.

“House Republicans want to sound like they care about climate change but they are not yet ready to do anything to limit the pollution from burning coal, oil, or gas,” said David Doniger, a senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund.

Doniger supports tree planting, but he thinks this is a GOP effort to skirt other climate responsibilities. He thinks Republicans are being forced into taking climate action because it is an election year.

“Members of the GOP are feeling pressure to address climate change. The voters care about this and want action,” said Doniger.

He says it will take too long, potentially hundreds of years, for these trees to have a positive impact. Doniger notes climate change will impact the ability of the trees to grow into climate change combatants. His sights are set on holding the fossil fuel industry accountable.

“The action they’re proposing now is too little and not itself a serious proposal. So they have a long way to go,” said Doniger.

The trillion trees bill is sitting in committee in the House, but with only GOP lawmakers on board its future is up in the air.

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