Rep. Sam Graves, put down your burger, straw and look at realities of climate change

Last week, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world — including in Kansas City — demanded action on climate change.

Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican, decided to mock their concerns with a press release.

“Burgers and Straws Aren’t the Problem,” the headline read. The essay attacks the Green New Deal, the ambitious package of environmental and economic reforms offered by progressives in the Democratic Party and others.

“The Green New Deal isn’t about the environment at all,” Graves wrote. “It’s about making America a socialist country.”

For a congressman representing an agricultural district, the word “socialist” is an interesting choice. Taxpayers have already sent the nation’s farmers $28 billion in emergency subsidies under President Donald Trump, twice the cost of the car makers’ bailout a decade ago.

Reasonable people can disagree over the breadth of the Green New Deal, and the cost. Some of its provisions — moving toward clean, renewable energy sources, for example — make sense. Other parts, including job and wage guarantees, are longer-term projects.

But the changing climate is a real phenomenon, with real-world consequences. And Graves’ screed isn’t really about the Green New Deal; it’s about trying to make America safe for polluters and carbon-based energy providers.

Graves’ record on environmental matters is clear. In June, he supported an amendment aimed at limiting enforcement of methane emissions. He supports drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Alaska, and off the coast of Florida.

He opposed the Clean Power Plan. He supported the Keystone XL pipeline. He has a lifetime rating of four from the League of Conservation Voters.

Graves’ answer to climate change? Let the private sector do its work. “We don’t need sweeping mandates that ignore economic reality and the differing needs of our communities,” he said in February.

Yet he is not above using the power of the federal government to protect some constituents. He’s offered legislation, for example, to remove fish and wildlife protection from the management manual for the Missouri River.

Graves suggests, falsely, that protecting wildlife leads to flooding. “Flood control must be the top priority for the Corps of Engineers, along with navigation,” he said in April.

The congressman seems blissfully unaware that climate change will make extreme weather events, like flooding, worse. Reducing pollution from cars and aircraft will do more to protect Missourians than killing fish or other wildlife.

Hundreds of thousands of people are telling Rep. Graves and his colleagues that the future is about a planet our children and grandchildren can inhabit. Perhaps he can put down his hamburger and soft drink long enough to listen.