Hearings on the topic of climate science in the United States Congress is long overdue. The American Congress has been and still is paralyzed on how to regulate corporate emissions and protect its citizens from dangerous toxins that contaminate our water, air, and soil. Reluctance to mention the topic by certain government officials is strikingly obvious; President Obama in his 2011 SOTU address didn’t even mention the topic for fear of drawing the ire of Republicans and their supporters who claim that climate change is not anthropogenic and that the science surrounding climate change remains unsettled.
Senator Boxer in California proposes that Congress hold hearings in order for the lawmaking body to get more informed on the topic. This week, she pledged to open up hearings in Congress on the science of carbon pollution and its impact on people and the planet. She ought to expand that to cover emissions and their role in influencing the climate; for instance, emission not only refers to carbon dioxide, but should also consider aerosols and their role in either cooling the land by reflecting more sunlight back into space or in their accumulation on glaciers or icepack allowing the frozen masses to accumulate more heat an melt more quickly. While they are at it, why not throw in a discussion about some of these extreme weather events we are having. Oh yeah, and make all of the experts that are to be interviewed PhDs in their respective fields. Now that is Must See TV!
This should be done before Republicans can introduce their bills limiting the power of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses because the EPA is limiting greenhouse gases not only because of their negative impact on human health and welfare, but also because of their propensity to cause dramatic climate shifts. The House and Senate should be informed of the most recent science available, and what better boy to consult for the knowledge than out very own AGU, AAAS, AMS, and NAS. Both Republican and Democratic parties have agreed to inject scientific thought into political resolution.
Late last month, the latest in a series of letters from scientists to politicians was sent to Capitol Hill. In this one, eighteen scientists from various research centers and universities in the U.S. sent an open letter to Congress on the topic of climate science. In it, they drew a distinction between political philosophy and climate science. The authors of the letter also pointed out the nature of climate science and the rigorous work taking place over several decades has resulted in the compilation of a significant amount of data. The majority of the scientists have reached the conclusion that human collective actions are affecting the climate. They are not resting this theory on a single strand of data, but rather on the whole body of evidence that has been gathered, which is a complex interweaving of analysis that spans several scientific fields and decades. It is well past time that this information is shared with The Congress.
Republicans are not averse to hearings on the topic, and with Senator Boxer’s challenge, neither are the Democrats.
House Republicans and their constituents (namely the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, API, NMA) have called for a ‘trial‘ of climate science in the recent past. Republicans, energy conglomerates, and lobbyists all towing the no climate change, business-as-usual line claim that EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions are unconstitutional because the science behind climate change is unsettled. Well, then, let’s settle it!
It appears as though, even without congressional hearings on climate science, an all out assault on science of climate change is coming from U.S. Republicans in the form of congressional bill passed in the House of Representatives. Fueled by exorbitant profits for dozens of successive quarters, energy conglomerates, riding high on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that corporate donations in elections were protected by First Amendment rights, have begun a campaign to undermine the EPA’s ability to regulate the industry’s practices or pollution. They do this despite the industry’s substantial subsidies.
Climate scientists can either accept the challenge that the energy industry is giving them now, or they can duck, dive, bob, and weave, trying to dodge the miscalculations and misrepresentations of their subject, as well as the lawsuits by Republicans in search of ways to protect their campaign coffers. Note to Scientists: President Obama’s SOTU speech should not be used as inspiration here; American’s deserve to hear about the topic of climate science before any Republican measures to restrict the EPA of its powers to regulate greenhouse gasses, granted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, can move forward.
There seems to be an urgent need for climate data by House representatives and Senators seeking restrict the EPA. Some members of Congress still go about in winter and mock global warming, showing a blatant misunderstanding of the difference between weather and climate. Others completely ignore date from NOAA, NASA, AGU, AAAS, AMS, and NMA that is written and posted online by these government organizations showing that temperatures in the last decade are the warmest on record and that polar ice caps are retreating. Still others must completely ignore the increasing number of weather anomalies that have come as of late (Russia fires, Pakistan flooding, China mudslides, Australian cyclone, drought, plagues, disease, famine; …all of that Armageddon stuff that Christian religious beliefs tend to attribute to acts of God rather than side-effects of actions taken by man.
The methodology currently being applied by Republicans, API, NMA, and Chamber of Commerce is the same as that which was used by the Tobacco industry and evolution, namely, attack the established, peer-reviewed science by cherry-picking data, discrediting that, and then declaring victory, when instead they should be looking at the full body of evidence; They tend to rely on miseducating the public with disinformation and cloud the issue until it reaches an apathetic haze.
President Obama’s top Science adviser, John Holdren said this week on Platt’s Energy Week that the science of climate change was very clear in its underlying essentials but that some uncertainties do remain in figuring out the details. It is on these very smaller details that skeptics seize trying to discredit the entire body of knowledge of climate science. There really is no reason why lawmakers should be misinformed on the topic of climate science when they have such academic powerhouses like the National Academy of Sciences, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an the National Aeronautics and Space Administration advising them.
As for the nature of Congressional hearings on climate science, Chris Mooney in Discover Magazine last year postulated two likely scenarios:
One type of hearing would be open minded and informational, calling upon scientists to testify about their federally funded research and its implications. That’s what Congress ought to be doing, and scientists will participate eagerly. “Climate scientists are more than willing, at any time, any place, to explain their science and show their results to anybody that asks,” observes climate modeler Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who along with Mann created the leading climate science website “Real Climate.”
The second type of hearing—much more problematic, but nothing un-heard of—would feature political grandstanding to highlight the pseudo-arguments in favor of global warming denial and attack the administration’s climate policies. It would likely pit a few mainstream scientists against a bevy of climate science skeptics and deniers—a “balanced” treatment of a topic where opinions are anything but balanced within the relevant expert community.
Since Obama’s SOTU speech, the argument has been made in the media that while climate change divides the American public, clean energy can bring us together. Is this wishful thinking, that clean energy can bridge the divide that climate change couldn’t? Is it something that they are fighting against, or are Republicans and energy conglomerates fighting to protect their right to be unregulated while they reap record profits, all the while dumping their externalities on the general public while they are subsidized. The endpoint of the clean energy as savior line of reasoning is that in 100-years’ time will our great-grandchildren care about how we got to the clean energy future or will they simply be thankful for a cleaner future? Rational thinking, yes, but so far it has not stopped Republicans from seeking to block the EPA in its attempt to regulate emissions in the present. Why is the EPA attempting to regulate emissions? The answer is because U.S. Federal Agencies and Administrations, as well as the Supreme Court, have deemed greenhouse gasses a danger to human health, citing the issue of global climate change as a threat to human welfare.
Republicans are attempting to rewrite the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in addition to the Endangered Species Act in order to allow the energy conglomerates to continue reaping profits by contaminating the air, water, and soil all at U.S. taxpayers expense. Externalities like environmental pollution and climate change regarding our fossil fuel dependence has not been yet been figured into the economic equation and, therefore, hearings on the merits of climate science are warranted not just on a legislation-level, but also for economic security. Lord knows, investors could use some clarification on where we are going, whether it be toward clean energy or disaster preparedness. Before Republicans can proceed with dismantling the 2007 Supreme Court ruling, as well as other federal agencies’ conclusions made in order to protect human health and welfare, Americans deserve to hear about the topic.
Australia has had a similar trajectory to America’s in relation to the general public’s stance there regarding climate science. They have oscillated back and forth between enacting brave new measures to limit pollution and support for the development of clean energy only to strip it away as new elections usher in an opposing view. Perhaps though, Cyclone Yasi on the heels of the country’s worst flooding in decades, Australia has reached the tipping point with regard to public support for the government to enact reform in favor of addressing climate change. Russian PM Vladimir Putin buckled only slightly on his anti-climate change stance this past summer as forest fires raged on for months around Moscow (the result of prolonged drought). Is that what it will take for Americans to take climate change more seriously? Do climate induced natural disasters have to hit the homeland with furious frequency in order for congressional representatives to discuss the topic of climate change with climate scientists and clear up some of the confusion for the American public?
Right now, Republicans are getting their information about climate change from the business community; all of their information is looked at through the lens of the Science of Economics. It would not make sense to ask a climate scientist about the financial crisis; why then do Republicans turn to energy conglomerates and the Chamber of Commerce for their information on how to deal with a changing climate?
Publicly televised hearings on climate science would be a net-positive for America, even if they do give skeptics a few talking points to dwell on for the next century. There are enough Americans who would like to watch legislators and scientists try to explain how we got into this situation and how we remedy the problem. The financial crisis hearings were watched feverishly by the business community and general public alike. Similarly, hearings on the nature of climate change will appeal to the business community as well as the common man. Bring it on!
Climate Debate Daily
New study finds striking level of agreement among climate experts on anthropogenic climate change
Links to source documents; mainstream and skeptic positions
Is President Obama avoiding the climate change debate?; YAHOO
Senator Boxer says climate science hearings are absolutely in the works; THEHILL
Scientists ask Congress to put aside politics and take a fresh look at climate science; THEHILL
The importance of Science in addressing climate change; CLIMATESCIENCEWATCH
How Congress can stop the EPA’s power grab; WSJ
U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks ‘Scopes Trial’ on climate change; BUSINESSGREEN
The coming assault on climate science; MOJO
The GOP’s coming climate witch hunt; MOJO
Past decade warmest on record according to scientists in 48 countries; NOAA
State lawmakers attack climate change, evolution; ARSTECHNICA
Bill Maher debates climate change, evolution with GOP; MEDIAITE
White House official cites education problem on climate; THEHILL
Will the new Congress subpoena climate scientists?; DISCOVER
Supreme Court decision in MA et al v. EPA; PEWCLIMATE
Reframing the climate change debate; EARTHJUSTICE
Cyclone may be tipping point in Australian climate debate; REUTERS