Tuesday, March 08, 2011

House Subcommittee Hears Competing Views From Climate Scientists

Mar 8: The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), held a hearing entitled, "Climate Science and EPA's Greenhouse Gas Regulations." The hearing was held at the request of Democrats and follows last week's introduction of the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910) [See WIMS 3/4/11], a bill to block what Republican's said is "EPA's controversial backdoor climate change agenda" which they say "would further drive up the price of energy for American consumers and job creators at a time when gas prices are already spiking and job creation remains weak." The bill was introduced in the House by full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Whitfield along with three Democratic leaders; and in the Senate (S.482) by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee and 43 cosponsors including one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
     Witnesses in today's hearing included a distinguished list of scientists including (in alphabetical order): (1) Dr. John R. Christy, Director, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville; (2) Dr. Christopher Field (invited at the request of the minority), Director, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, CA; (3) Dr. Knute Nadelhoffer (invited at the request of the minority), Director, University of Michigan Biological Station, University of Michigan; (4) Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., Senior Research Scientist, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder; (5) Dr. Donald Roberts, Professor Emeritus, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD; (6) Dr. Richard Somerville (invited at the request of the minority), Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA; (7) Dr. Francis W. Zwiers (invited at the request of the minority), Director, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia.
    In advance of the hearing, Democrats issued a 5-page background memo on climate science and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) delivered a speech at an event at the Center for American Progress. In his speech, Rep. Waxman said, "I've never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and public policy. The Republicans in Congress have become the party of science deniers and that is profoundly dangerous. Exhibit A in the Republican attack on science is the Upton-Inhofe bill that overturns EPA's scientific determination that carbon emissions endanger health and welfare. When we had a hearing on this legislation last month, Senator Inhofe was the lead witness. He told us that climate change is a 'hoax.' The new Republican majority in the House has a lot of power to write our nation's laws, but they do not have the power to rewrite the laws of nature. Republicans in Congress can't cure cancer by passing a bill that declares smoking safe. And they can't stop climate change by declaring it a hoax. . ."
    In his opening statement, Chairman Whitfield said, "This is our third hearing on the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. The first two focused on the adverse impact that the Environmental Protection Agency's global warming regulatory agenda would have on jobs and the economy. We could probably have another hearing on the economic impacts, as we still have not heard from some of the many job creating sectors that consider EPA's global warming agenda to be one of if not the biggest regulatory threat they face. But the minority wanted a separate science hearing and we have agreed to their request. In my view, holding yet another science hearing is rather excessive, given that we have held 24 such hearings in the House of Representatives over the past 4 years. In any event, I am pleased to have this diverse scientific panel today. . .
    ". . .one need not be a skeptic of global warming to be a skeptic of EPA's regulatory agenda. Case in point is EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson who warned about how complex and costly greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act would be. Of course, that was in 2009 and 2010 when the administration was trying to pass through Congress cap and trade legislation. It is only now that cap and trade is dead that the Administrator has changed her tune and emphasizes how reasonable and workable these rules will be. . . Keep that in mind when you hear about these scary global warming scenarios. Even if you believe every word of them, the agency's rules are no solution. . ."
    Dr. John R. Christy, Director, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville testified, ". . .downward adjustments to North American coal use will have virtually no effect on global CO2 emissions (or the climate), no matter how sensitive one thinks the climate system might be to the extra CO2 we are putting back into the atmosphere. . . Thus, if the country deems it necessary to de-carbonize civilization's main energy sources, sound and indeed compelling reasons beyond human-induced climate change need to be offered. Climate change alone is a weak leg on which to stand for such a massive undertaking. (I'll not address the fact there is really no demonstrated technology except nuclear that can replace large portions of the carbon-based energy production.)
    He also noted, ". . .we have not considered the many positive benefits of higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, especially for the biological world, nor the tremendous boost to human health, welfare, and security provided by affordable, carbon-based energy. As someone who has lived in a developing country, I can assure the subcommittee that without energy, life is brutal and short."
    Dr. Knute Nadelhoffer (invited at the request of the minority), Director, University of Michigan Biological Station, University of Michigan, testified and offered his views on the current and expected ecological impacts of climate change, with a particular emphasis on the Great Lakes basin and said, "We know the climate is changing. It is real, it is happening, and the impacts are becoming clearer the more we observe and study plant and animal distributions, nutrient cycles, atmospheric chemistry, and long-term, large-scale weather and climate patterns. . .
    "In light of all of the scientific facts relating to climate change, Michigan scientists have overwhelmingly voiced their support for strong federal policies to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Science is not a partisan endeavor. It provides us with the best information available about how the earth and regions such as the Great Lakes basin are responding to the inexorable and unprecedented (in human time-scale) increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases. We ask that Congress support sound legislative and regulatory policies to limit harmful greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our health, welfare, environment and our economy.
    Access the hearing website and links to all witness testimony, a Republican background memo and opening statement from Rep. Whitfield (click here). Access the hearing announcement (click here). Access the Democrats background memo (click here). Access the speech of Rep. Waxman (click here). Access links to an opening statement from Rep. Waxman as well as letters from Scientists, National Academy of Sciences and Health and Medical Professionals (click here). Access a release from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Ranking Member Subcommittee on Energy and Power (click here).
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