What Rep. Mike Johnson’s Rise to Speaker Means for Our Climate

The Republican House has elevated climate- and election-denier Rep. Mike Johnson to Speaker. Here's what to expect from him when it comes to our climate, environment, and democracy (it isn't pretty).


Mike Johnson photo CC-BY-SA 2.0, Gage Skidmore, Flickr
by Mia DiFelice

This past fall, amid growing climate chaos, chaos within the Republican Party reached fever pitch. Internal dysfunction nearly ground our government to a halt, entangling must-pass spending bills. An eleventh-hour deal by then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sent the GOP into a tailspin, and the Party booted McCarthy from leadership. Then, to elect a new Speaker, it went through three weeks of infighting and three failed nominees before finally settling on Rep. Mike Johnson.

Johnson’s rise to Speakership represents the rise of a far-right wing of an already right-wing party. It’s also a terrible sign for our food, water, climate, and democracy. Johnson is a climate denier, an election denier, and firmly in the pockets of Big Oil and Big Agribusiness.

But Johnson is no outlier — he was unanimously elected by House Republicans and embodies the current Republican Party. His election clarifies and highlights all the challenges we face, the dire state of politics, and the urgency of electing Democrats and progressives in this year’s elections. 

Johnson’s Track Record Is Bad News for Climate And Democracy

Despite mountains of evidence and what’s happening in their own backyards, Republican members of Congress continue to undermine climate science and the solutions we need to avoid climate chaos. Rep. Johnson is no exception

In 2017, he went on record saying, “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive SUVs? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.” 

With his climate skepticism, Johnson brushes aside the experiences of his own constituents; Louisianans are facing unprecedented, climate-fueled floods, heat, and wildfires. This is part of the GOP’s wider trend toward politicizing and discounting the climate crisis, instead of tackling it as an existential threat for everyone.

Given this, Johnson’s voting record comes as no surprise. Since becoming a representative in 2016, he has served as a staunch ally to the oil and gas industry. In 2022, he received a 100% approval score from the pro-fossil fuel American Energy Alliance. Johnson’s record also includes opposing regulations on toxic PFAS “forever chemicals,” slashing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, and much more. Additionally, as chair of the Republican Study Committee, he railed against the Green New Deal and sponsored an anti-Green New Deal resolution. 

Climate change isn’t the only thing Johnson’s denied. He’s also a prominent figure among Congressional election deniers. In November 2020, he urged Trump to “exhaust every available legal remedy” to overturn the outcome of the election. Then, he voted against certifying President Biden’s win in the electoral college.

His election to Speaker is a disturbing sign of what Congressional Republicans support — with chilling implications for 2024’s presidential election.

Johnson Is a Textbook Case of Corporate Capture

Rep. Johnson’s record on energy and climate makes even more sense once you see his main donors. Over his past seven years in the House, he’s received more money from oil and gas than any other industry, taking more than $300,000 in donations. He’s also received over $180,000 from Big Ag throughout his tenure. 

Polluting corporations have Mike Johnson snugly in their pockets. In fact, the oil industry cheered on his Speakership. It knows it can count on Johnson to keep their interests central for the entire Republican caucus.

And he’s far from the only Congressmember taking corporate cash. From 2021-22, the oil and gas sector alone donated more than $30.9 million to Congress, with $24.6 million going to Republicans.

Mike Johnson is a shining example of how corporate dollars have corrupted our political process. As a result, many of our elected leaders would rather put profits over their constituents.

We Know What Johnson Wants for Congress, and It Isn’t Pretty

In his previous term, Mike Johnson served as chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee. During that time, he helmed a 300-page playbook for a Republican-majority Congress.

This “playbook” included several initiatives that threaten climate action and environmental protections. Notably, it suggested changes to the National Emergencies Act that would prevent President Biden from declaring a national climate emergency. This would block the possibility of one of the strongest policy tools we have to address climate change. (With an emergency, Biden could use executive powers to severely cut fossil fuel production and ramp up clean energy.)

In the same document, Johnson and the Republican Study Committee advocate for gutting the National Environmental Policy Act. This bedrock environmental law mandates environmental review and community engagement processes for potentially harmful projects. Johnson may angle to alter NEPA in budget negotiations this year.

Already, under Johnson’s leadership, the House passed a bill that would cut $5 to $6 billion in funding for renewables and home electrification rebates. The bill also includes bans on funding for several of the Biden administration’s environmental justice initiatives.

It’s unlikely to pass into law; but with bills like this one, Johnson and the GOP are staking their positions and goals as budget negotiations continue.

What This Means for the GOP and 2024 Elections

Mike Johnson not only bodes ill for the current Congress and budget negotiations — his unanimous election to House leadership is a weather vane for the winds of the whole GOP. In the words of Mitch Jones, Food & Water Action’s Deputy Director:

“In lining up behind Mike Johnson, House Republicans have uniformly embraced his dystopian vision and made it clear they are only interested in tearing things down — things like our fundamental clean air, clean water and public health safeguards.”

With House Republicans veering harder right than ever, the 2024 elections are more important than ever. We need to elect Democrats and defend against Republican extremism in races across the country. 

Food & Water Action has already endorsed two great candidates, and we’re gearing up to work on even more races across the country. We’ll be going door to door, making phone calls, and writing postcards to voters. It’s critical that we elect bold progressive climate champions and wrest control of the House from Johnson and his band of corporate cronies. 

Johnson’s record underscores the importance of organizing ahead of 2024. We face candidates across the country who refuse to prioritize our health, safety, environment, climate, and futures. But as we’ve seen in recent victories, we have the power to elect climate champions. We can fight corporate interests at the polls and win. And with your help, that’s just what we’ll be doing in 2024. 

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