Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rep. Markey Hearing On "The State of Climate Science"

Dec 2: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing on, "The State of Climate Science." Obviously, much of the discussion and questioning from Committee members focused on the November 20 release of hundreds of emails, illegally obtained by hacking the server at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, which some opponents are claiming reveals a conspiracy in the scientific community regarding the science behind climate change [See WIMS 11/24/09].

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and formerly a professor at Harvard University and the director of the acclaimed Woods Hole Research Center; and Dr. Jane Lubchenco the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States’ leading climate office. Chairman Markey also issued an opening statement.

In his opening statement, Chairman Markey reminded that, ". . .scientists -- including those advising the U.S. government -- have issued warnings about the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere throughout the last 4 decades. After a report from his science advisory committee, President Lyndon Johnson noted in a 1965 special address to Congress that 'a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels' has altered the composition of the atmosphere. In 1978, Robert White, the first administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warned that carbon dioxide emissions 'can have consequences for climate that pose a considerable threat to future society.'"

Markey continued saying, "Administration scientists once predicted the impacts of global warming. Now they can confirm them. And, unfortunately, families from New Orleans to Alaska are living with the harsh consequences. Given the upcoming international climate conference in Copenhagen and the continuing work on domestic clean energy legislation in Congress, an update on the administration’s view on the state of climate science is timely. . ."

Holdren said in his 11-page testimony that, "It is well established that climate is changing in the United States and all across the globe. The air and the oceans are warming, mountain glaciers are disappearing, sea ice is shrinking, permafrost is thawing, the great land ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass, and sea level is rising. We know the primary cause of these changes beyond any reasonable doubt. It is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping pollutants from our factories, our buildings, our vehicles, and our power plants; from farming, cement manufacture, and waste disposal; and from deforestation and other forms of land-use change that move carbon out of soils and vegetation and into the atmosphere. . .

"It goes almost without saying that the United States, as the largest contributor to the cumulative additions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and still today the second-largest emitter after China, and as the world’s largest economy and pre-eminent source of scientific and technological innovation, has both the obligation and the opportunity to lead the world in demonstrating that the needed emissions reductions can be achieved in ways that are affordable and consistent with continued economic growth, that create new jobs, and that bring further co-benefits in the form of reduced oil-import dependence and improved air quality. President Obama is going to Copenhagen to underline that the United States is fully committed to assuming this leadership role. The Administration obviously will need the support of the Congress in delivering on this promise. . ."

In her 10-pages of testimony, Lubchenco said, "In the short time that President Obama has been in office, he has made it clear that our choices will be informed by scientific knowledge and that he considers addressing climate change to be a high priority. . . " She highlighted research from the U.S. government landmark report entitled, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (GCCI 2009), prepared under the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

She noted that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007) is a climate science assessment prepared by 152 leading scientists from around the world who served as its authors. It was then reviewed and re-reviewed by more than 600 experts and dozens of governments. She said, ". . .the latest key finding in the GCCI 2009 report: Global warming is unequivocal and is primarily human-induced." Among the highlighted conclusions she cited, global average surface temperature has risen by about 1.5 degreesF since 1900 and is projected to rise another 2-11.5 degreesF by 2100 (IPCC 2007 and GCCI 2009). The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is estimated at around 385 ppm, which is higher than the highest point in at least the last 800,000 years (GCCI 2009). In the U.S. she said cited that the U.S. average temperature has risen more than 2 degreesF over the past 50 years and is projected to rise more in the future (GCCI 2009).

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, statements (click here).