- House Energy and Commerce Committee, July 25, 2002: Hearing on the US National Climate Change Assessment: Do the Climate Models Project a Useful Picture of Regional Climate?
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, July 11, 2002: Hearing on Climate Change Policies
- House Science Committee, July 10, 2002: Hearing on the Bush Administration's Climate Change Initiative
- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, July 24, 2001: Hearing on Proposals Related to Global Climate Change and Measures to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, July 18, 2001: Hearing on S. 1008, the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, July 10, 2001: Hearing on Climate Change Technology and Policy Options
- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, June 28, 2001: Hearing on Science and Technology Studies on Climate Change
- Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, May 23, 2001: Hearing on Carbon Sequestration: Measurements and Benefit
- Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, May 2, 2001: Hearing to consider the science of global climate change and issues related to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions
- Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation May 1, 2001: Hearing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report
- House Science Committee March 14, 2001: Hearing on the State of Climate Change Science
The Bottom Line
On July 25th, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held an investigative hearing on the viability of climate models. Six witnesses presented, under oath, before the two representatives, Jim Greenwood (R-PA) and Peter Deutsch (D-FL), present. The witnesses explained the process of synthesizing the National Assessment, described the models used, results arrived at, and the assessment's reliabilitiy. General consensus was that while the climate models can serve as a useful tool and are better than heading into the future without expectations, they cannot and should not be relied on too closely due to the scientific uncertainty associated with the models. The issue of discussing climate change vulnerabilities as opposed to predictions was presented by Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., President-Elect of the American Association of State Climatologists and Climatologist and Professor at Colorado State University. The concept was in favor with several of the witnesses. The majority of witnesses stressed that while the models are uncertain, this uncertainty should not prevent sensible policy decisions from being made, as it is apparent that climate change is going to occur in the future. All called for additional funding for climate modeling.
|Jim Greenwood (R-PA), Chair||Peter Deutsch (D-FL), Ranking Member|
On July 25th, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held an investigative hearing on the viability of climate models. Subcommittee Chairman Jim Greenwood (R-PA) stressed the need for policy makers to be provided with plausible ideas of what is in store for the climate 50 or even 100 years into the future in order to make sound policy decisions. Because of the importance placed on climate models, it is essential "not to glide over the scientific validity of the models." He laid out three questions he hoped to have a better understanding of by the end of the hearing: What is the plausibility and reliability of the pictures painted by the models given their limitations? How reasonable is it to rely on the models to make policies? And, how can communication of the uncertainty of models be improved and better understood?
Six witnesses testified, under oath, at the hearing. Dr. Anthony Janetos, Senior Fellow at The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment; Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center; Dr. Daniel Lashof, Deputy Director of the Climate Center at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Dr. James O'Brien, Director of the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) at Florida State University; Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., President-Elect of the American Association of State Climatologists and Climatologist and Professor at Colorado State University; and Dr. Patrick Michaels, Professor and Virginia State Climatologist at the University of Virginia.
Janetos described the process of putting the US National Assessment together and explained what can be taken away from its findings. The National Assessment Synthesis Team (NAST) integrated the best scientific information available in order to aid the understanding of "what is at stake for natural resources and human well-being in the US." Two primary models, from the Canadian Climate Centre and the Hadley Centre, were chosen as the basis of the assessment, with information from several other models, historical climate data, and sensitivity analyses as well. All NAST meetings and documents used were open to the public, and the final report has been through an extensive review. The report begins with an explanation of the terms used to convey the various levels of confidence on the various results. It acknowledges that there are still many scientific uncertainties and that surprises can be expected.
Karl focused more specifically on the National Assessment's attempt to predict climate change on a regional basis, and the general conclusion that there are currently too many uncertainties to detail changes on a regional or local scale. He ended by stating that "resolving these uncertainties will be essential to understanding the scope of any climate change impact."
Lashof began by explaining the general value of models. Models are used to simulate many things, from crash tests to nuclear weapons tests, in an effort to better understand systems and to anticipate how those systems will behave. Humans are currently conducting an experiment on Earth, but there is no control over how the system will respond; therefore, the only way to guess what will happen is to use models based on the known physics and biology of the earth. The National Assessment used several models, endured an extensive peer review process, and was accepted by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Its clear conclusion was that global warming does pose a threat to public health and welfare. A few of the most plausible effects on the US due to warming are increased vulnerability to storm surges in the southeast, decreased snow pack, and exacerbated water shortages. He also offered a more specific example of expected effects of warming on sport fish (i.e. salmon and trout) to demonstrate that "it is possible to draw robust conclusions about the vulnerability of key resources to the effects of global warming, despite variations in climate model projections." Lashof concluded by offering his own opinion that, based on the results he has seen, he believes that it is time to take action to reduce global warming.
O'Brien, Co-Chair of one of the National Regional Assessments, offered his opinion of the two main climate models used in the National Assessment. While he thought the Hadley model was state-of-the-art, it has poor resolution and inadequate understanding of certain systems and relationships, particularly the oceans. With some work he felt this model has great potential. On the other hand, O'Brien considered the Canadian model to be a disaster. He repeated what someone had told him, that it seems "the Canadian model is modeling another planet!" Given the accuracy of the two models used for the majority of the National Assessment, there is much work to be done before the types of questions that the general public has regarding climate change (i.e. Will this winter be colder than normal in New England?) can be accurately answered. O'Brien believes, however, that climate scientists could do much better if they had the appropriate resources, particularly better, more powerful computers. Climate change will occur and the US needs to take a close look at its priorities, and ask "Do we want to understand future climate or not?"
Pielke introduced the concept of focusing on vulnerability as opposed to predictions based on climate models. Societies and the environment are constantly changing; therefore, it would be virtually impossible to predict how future climate change will impact humans, even if scientists had a comprehensive understanding of all the climatic forcings and included them all in a model. Pielke argued that focusing on the vulnerabilities would be a much more useful type of information to give decision makers, as it would not be involved with the large uncertainties surrounding climate models that should not be given too much weight as predictive tools. A recent book from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme entitled "Vegetation, Water, Humans and the Climate: A New Perspective on an Interactive System. A Synthesis of the ICBP Core Project, Biospheric Aspects of the Hydrologic Cycle" devotes a chapter to this issue of vulnerability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and several US programs including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (RISA) program "have also acknowledged the importance of vulnerability as a scientific organizing theme." Pielke ended his statements by stressing that just because anthropogenic effects on climate change cannot be modeled does not mean that it is not important or nonexistent. He did not consider the inability to rely on models to be a legitimate excuse for postponing policy decisions. "Too often debate over the science substitutes for debate over policy."
"Effects have causes. Confronting our society today is a potentially serious effect, climate change, caused by human influence on our global atmosphere," proclaimed Michaels. Scientists have been asked to quantify these causes and make definitive statements, based on hypotheses, about what will happen to our climate in the future. He then laid out a situation wherein unbiased, naive people are asked to determine what future climate change will be. These people would use models to predict large, medium, and small changes. The National Assessment chose this approach as well, although Michaels believes the models of choice were far from ideal as they picked two of the most extreme models to use. Michaels concludes, however, that unlike NAST, the naive, unbiased people would have been forced to conclude that they did not have the tools to accurately predict effects of climate change based on their results. He argues that the models have produced nothing more than random numbers, that what has taken place is not science but science-fiction. Michaels was extremely clear in presenting his belief that the current climate models are neither reliable nor realistic of what people can expect for Earth's future.
Greenwood was the first to question the witnesses. He asked Karl, given his testimony on the seemingly unavoidable limitations of models, why should people even bother with them in this situation. Karl answered that while models are by no means perfect, they are useful tools. He offered daily weather forecasting as an example. Although the weather systems do not have the power to determine when and where hail storms or tornados will occur, they do give people an idea of when or what to expect. Karl was then asked to respond to Michaels' view that the climate models used for the National Assessment yielded worthless, insignificant numbers. He answered that results depended on the test that was run on the models and that the models do show significance for many of the variables.
Michaels then interjected that Karl had replicated the tests that he had performed and experienced similar results. He explained that when the Earth warms, precipitation patterns change which then cause Earth temperatures to change. Because of this phenomenon, it is very difficult to explain the temperature history in the US, as average temperature increases and decreases do not always correspond with increases in greenhouse gases. He felt it was ironic that the National Assessment attempts to perform a regional assessment when modeling past temperature change for the country as a whole has not been successful.
Greenwood then asked the panel if they felt the government needed to provide additional research and instrument money. When all panelists responded in the affirmative, Michaels pointed out that of course scientists will say yes if you ask if they need more money. He felt that there should be a shift in the research focus to try to understand why the actual amount of greenhouse warming that has occurred has been at the low end of the expectations and its increase quite constant.
Deutsch asked if there were any consistencies between the climate models. Karl responded that all models suggest it will get warmer and that as the warming occurs precipitation tends to fall in heavier events. Lashof added that sea level rise can also be expected.
Greenwood ended the hearing by asking what policies panelists would recommend.
Janetos -- Take actions that make sense now. Scientific uncertainty should not inhibit the mitigation of greenhouse gases that is achievable with current technologies at a relatively low cost.
Karl -- Continue to encourage cross-discipline dialogue to come up with valuable policies.
Lashof -- It needs to be recognized that there is a thickening blanket of CO2 being added to the atmosphere that will cause the climate to change and that the US is vulnerable. Because the voluntary approach to limit greenhouse gas emissions for the past 10 years has for the most part failed, mandatory greenhouse gas emission limits need to be put in place. It is unfortunate that the energy bills move in the wrong direction. Even though the problem is daunting, we do know how to solve it -- it is a matter of implementing those solutions.
O'Brien -- Science should be directed to better understand climate variability on shorter timescales (annual, multi year, multi decade vs. 100 years). US vulnerability to climate change should be viewed as a national security issue. More than that, the US should take responsibility for what is happening in other parts of the world as climate change is sure to push some countries' stability over the edge.
Pielke -- The effect of climate on many large industries needs to be recognized. Policies need to be flexible and sensible when related to the long term.
Michaels -- Do not mandate technologies. Individuals should be able to invest in the technologies they choose. They should be allowed to retain their incomes now to invest in technologies of the future. It was smart not to ratify Kyoto as it will make no substantial change in emissions.
The Bottom Line
The July 11th Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the administration's climate change policies highlighted the vast differences of opinion that surround this issue. The four witnesses, all members of the Bush administration, were united in their vision for US climate change policy. They expressed the need for flexibility due to uncertainty of science, additional research, and global involvement in any emissions reduction plan. The need to act rationally in order to avoid economic hardship was also stressed. This concept, of needing to make a choice between the economy and protecting the environment, was one that came into question, as not all present agreed that this was the case. Acting Chair John Kerry (D-MA) was clear in his disapproval of current administration plans and spent a substantial amount of time questioning the witnesses about the wording, definitions, and concepts associated with the president's proposal. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) all expressed varied levels of concern with the administration's policies while Senators Conrad Burns (R-MT) and George Allen (R-VA) supported the policies.
John F. Kerry (D-MA), Acting Chair
John McCain (R-AZ), Ranking Member
Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
George Allen (R-VA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
On July 11th, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing to review the Bush Administration's climate change policies. Four of President Bush's advisors were present to testify: James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ); R. Glenn Hubbard, Chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisors (CEA); John Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); and James Mahoney, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The House Science Committee held a similar hearing the day before, two of the witnesses -- Marburger and Mahoney -- gave testimony at both hearings.
Several senators, beginning with acting-chair Senator John Kerry (D-MA), were present to give opening statements. Kerry began by explaining his previous experience with climate change hearings, both domestically and internationally. He expressed his concern that the Bush Administration seems to have taken several steps backwards in its new climate change policies despite the mounting scientific evidence that draws a clear connection between human activities and climate change. Kerry warned of the expected usage of the word "intensity" within the Bush climate change plan, that it weakens emissions reduction goals. His assessment of Bush's new proposal was that it is nothing new, calling for more research, voluntary action, and preparing to adjust to any climate changes. Fortunately, states are taking the lead where the federal government is lacking -- Massachusetts recently instituted a cap and trade program and California is poised to pass a strict emissions law. He ended by stating that the climate change issue has been talked about for too long, it is time for true leadership.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke of the large volume of wildfires currently blazing in the west that could be linked to climate change as even the recent EPA Climate Action Report suggested an increase in fire potential as a result of climate change. He then broadened his scope, stating that places around the globe are showing the effects of climate change, and as discussed in the National Academy of Sciences Abrupt Climate Change Report, these changes are not expected to happen linearly. The growing state interest in regulating emissions should serve as a call to Congress to do something. McCain expressed his displeasure with the president's decision to withdraw the US from the Kyoto Treaty, saying it was consistent with the US's "business as usual approach."
Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) had a different perspective. He felt it was important to remember the good news -- the American dream is alive and well. All of the main elements of the American lifestyle, from the goods we produce and consume to our transportation, require energy. He argued that the US is an efficient producer of energy and while our carbon emissions are high, they aren't so high once you account for our GDP. Of course we can do better, for instance we can increase nuclear power. The US is working to improve coal technology, fuel cells, and hydropower. We can and will decrease the carbon intensity of our economy through technological advances, not through rules and regulations. The US is making significant contributions to research on climate change; it has spent $1.6 billion annually on climate science, more than Japan and the 15 European Union countries combined. Unfortunately, as more research is done more questions are created. In creating our climate change response we need to be consistent, flexible, and smart.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated that the US should be leading the way on global warming not leading the way on global warming research. Boxer highlights two recent publications -- Scorched Earth and Beneath Hot Air -- and what they have to say about climate change and current US proposals. She expressed her pride in the work her state of California has done to decrease emissions as well as the Massachusetts move to establish the cap and trade system. The federal government, however, has been lacking. S. 556, has been the only Senate bill to move in the right direction. The administration needs to put something forth. Boxer concluded by saying, "I want to be united [on climate change] but at this point I think it's a fight."
Senator George Allen (R-VA) addressed the issue of western wildfires that was brought up by McCain. Allen said he would not blame the fires on climate change or increasing greenhouse gases. There was no mystery, people had started those fires. As far as climate change goes, the climate is always changing, therefore the question is what degree of the change is human induced. Due to the uncertainty of human impact on climate, both the science and the impact on jobs need to be analyzed. New technologies should be embraced as it proves economically sound to do. Realistic goals that will not cause undue stress on the economy need to be set. Research needs to continue. Allen felt that the US is on the right path -- it can improve the environment by using sound science to ensure that drastic and hasty decisions are avoided.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) began by describing his trip into space, detailing the view of Earth from the space shuttle window. He described the thin film of the atmosphere surrounding Earth which sustains all life. Viewing Earth with the naked eye he could see how humans are messing it up, and he continued on with a list of examples. Nelson then conveyed his confusion about why the administration would not do everything possible to confront what the science community agrees is a problem.
Kerry concluded by remarking about the diverging views already apparent at the hearing. He also pointed out that the US is certainly not doing anything dramatic or hasty as over 170 countries have been debating these issues for ten years (referring to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992). Kerry continued that the US has effectively given the other countries the "back of the hand" towards their thinking processes by choosing not to comply with the Kyoto treaty, the result of the Rio summit. On a more basic level, Kerry questions what policy makers mean when they use the word efficiency. He points out that if they mean producing a lot then yes, the US is very efficient. If the definition means something more than this, however, then the US is very inefficient. Two principles should be embraced when thinking about efficiency: 1) all actions should make economic sense and 2) Americans should not lose any quality of life, including the quality of the environment in which they live.
Witness testimony followed this rather lengthy period of opening statements. Connaughton spoke about the "ambitious, focused, and meaningful goals, programs, and initiatives" President Bush has committed the nation to. Maintaining the strength of the American economy is of key importance for more than the benefit of American lifestyles. It is also necessary if we are to remain strong enough to invest in new technologies needed to reduce emissions in the long term. In building up the case against reacting too quickly and at too high a level, Connaughton brought up the Kyoto Protocol. In his written statement he reminded the reader of the bipartisan response to Kyoto, as it "would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and caused the loss of up to 4.9 million jobs, risking the welfare of the American people and American workers." Connaughton stressed the importance of flexibility, which is a main characteristic of the Bush Administration's proposal, and international cooperation. He also discussed the recent-enactment of the Farm Bill that authorizes up to $47 billion over the next decade for conservation of forests and farmland -- which he argues will serve as a carbon sink -- and to promote other activities on farms and ranches to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Hubbard detailed the three "prongs" of the administration's plan. First, to slow the net greenhouse gas emissions by using an emissions intensity target that solves the problems of risks to the economy and of decision making under uncertainty. When one designs a goal it must match the known problem. Second, to lay the ground for future action by setting up various institutions. And third, to develop an effective response, including the involvement of other countries through the creation of international institutions.
He explained that short-term responses are not the proper solution for the problem at hand. He used the analogy of a house on fire. If you wake up and smell smoke in your house, you would not ignore it but you also would not jump out the window. . . you would check out the situation. The US has the ability to achieve the president's plan, which is widely accepted economically. This plan is the low cost way of addressing the problem in the near term while infrastructures needed to make larger reductions are put in place. Hubbard said the average emissions decrease under the plan is comparable to Kyoto reductions, as Kyoto involved a lot of emissions trading options which the US would have used.
Marburger began by expressing the president's concern on the climate change issue, and his recognition of the important leadership role the US holds in dealing with this challenge. Marburger also highlighted President Bush's renewal of US commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention and its goal to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will maintain Earth and human health. Immediately following this statement, however, Marburger stated the Bush viewpoint that scientific uncertainties are preventing an actual level to be formulated at this time. These same scientific uncertainties are what have led the Bush Administration to its current position on climate change policy -- to go ahead with policy changes that are sure to maintain a healthy US economy and to continue research on the issue in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanics and likely future of climate change.
The remainder of Marburger's testimony focused on the research Bush has requested to be done and misconceptions surrounding resulting reports. He quoted the 2001 National Academy of Sciences Report, explaining that it is often not quoted in its entirety, which changes its true meaning: "The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability." He expanded on this quote, stating that the causal link between the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate change is not 100%, although data suggest this relationship to exist, it is not certain, as significant uncertainties still exist. He also addressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Action Report, and confusion upon its release. While many interpreted this report as an acknowledgement of a "dire, near term threat to the environment from climate change," this is simply not true. Because of the difficulties associated with modeling future climate, and uncertainties of climate models, the scenarios presented in the climate change report were simply projections, not predictions, as to what could happen in the future if certain conditions are present. He emphasized the difference between projections and predictions, the former being much less certain than the latter. As a result of the high degree of uncertainty associated with climate change, the president's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal allots $2.9 billion to climate change research as well as to technologies with the potential to minimize possible impacts on climate change.
Mahoney reiterated Marburger's message that the Bush Administration is "committed to making full use of our best scientific information to determine optimal investments and actions. . . to mitigate adverse anthropogenic changes, and to adapt to unavoidable natural changes," as well as the desire to prevent taking a "ready-fire-aim" approach to climate change. His testimony provided an overview of the global change and climate change research that has taken place to date and that the president has requested. In the past 13 years the US has contributed more to climate change research than any other nation, with a total investment in the area of $20 billion. Understanding of earth systems and resulting models have undoubtedly improved in the past several years. Climate change research has graduated from a "period of discovery and characterization," as we now know that we do have a problem, to a new "period of differentiation and strategy investigation," in which we know that there is a problem and now are searching for the proper solution, the theme of the President's Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). Along with his announcement of the CCRI he called for increased collaboration between agencies involved in global change research, creating the Interagency Climate Change Science Program. This interagency group is responsible for overseeing the release of an annual report of recent findings and short-term plans the creation of a ten-year strategic plan to be published in 2003, and for organizing scientific reviews of work being done by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in order to ensure a "robust review" of all activities. By increasing the scientific study the administration feels it will be supplied with an increasingly robust set of decision making tools.
The question and answer period began with Kerry saying they had been "barraged by pronouncements of how well we're doing" and continued on in this tone. When he was through, he asked a series of questions establishing who was responsible for the 2002 EPA Climate Action Report and why Bush attempted to distance himself from the report. Hubbard established that it was approved by himself and other members of the administration. Connaughton answered that the president had not distanced himself from the report, it was, in fact, put out by the bureaucracy -- the press created a story that was not there. Kerry jumped on the opportunity to reply that the administration must agree then with the report's conclusion that human activities resulting in the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are likely to result in grave consequences. He then read off potential effects of climate change that are detailed in the EPA report. After several examples, he concluded by asking why the administration's policies are only voluntary when its own report is a compilation of dire warnings for this country. Witnesses answered that he had taken those examples out of context -- they were "what-if scenarios" established by putting various values into the models. They were things likely to happen if one of the scenarios occurs. Kerry changed gears, asking if the witnesses all supported the 1992 US signing and ratification of the goal to stabilize greenhouse gases to safe levels. When the four men answered yes, he replied that if the US continues on its current path, it won't achieve that goal. Hubbard answered that the science is inconclusive as to what "safe levels" are, therefore the US is acting within a reasonable framework.
Boxer then asked Connaughton who was consulted in drafting the administration's climate change initiative. He responded that it was a presidential and cabinet-level review process including eight cabinet members, the president's senior staff, scientists, economists, and Non-Governmental Organizations. When asked about industry groups being involved, Connoughton answered that cabinet members had many conversations with industry groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and the World Wildlife Federation. Boxer requested a list of who he personally had met with. Her next question addressed the introduction of the term emissions intensity, which she views as a smokescreen that will effectively accomplish nothing. A witness answered that its use for this purpose was established during the cabinet review process, and defended its worth, explaining that it ensures efficiency and productivity and began drawing a parallel between forcing changes too quickly and the collapse of the Russian economy. Boxer, annoyed with this answer, responded that this fear that exists surrounding the implementation of new, efficient technologies is unfounded. She believes that when you do the right thing for the environment you create jobs, not economic stagnation. Boxer concluded by explaining her frustration. Since release of the Climate Action Report, which describes serious consequences likely as a result of human actions, several steps have been taken in the wrong direction. The administration has opposed Jeffords' progressive S. 556, the energy bill lacks any real progress towards reducing emissions, and there has been little talk of fuel efficiency. The administration has effectively admitted that there is a problem, yet all it offers as its solution is a decrease in emissions intensity.
Allen began by countering Boxer's negative outlook on current climate and energy policies. He argued that businesses like to use more efficient means of production as it is often cost effective. The energy bill offers several incentives for clean technology. He then asked Hubbard to address people's concerns about increasing costs of addressing climate change. Hubbard responded that the view that it is more costly the longer we wait is false. Tax incentives and voluntary goals are getting people money and driving innovations.
Nelson asked Mahoney to describe the greenhouse effect. He also asked about the role water vapor plays in global warming, wondering if it will increase in a hotter environment. Mahoney replied that it might but the system is not a fixed box, for example precipitation may increase as a result of global warming, resulting in less water vapor in the atmosphere. He also said that while CO2 is a major player in global warming, water vapor and atmospheric circulation are two other very important factors at play. Nelson concluded his questioning by stating his belief that we should use "an abundance of caution" when it comes to global warming.
Kerry then launched into a second round of questioning. He brought up that the conditions of the Kyoto Protocol are only a first step in reducing CO2 levels due to the long residence time of this compound in the atmosphere. In his view, the Bush proposal basically discards the notion of a relationship between global warming and greenhouse gases. Witnesses disagreed with this statement and stated that they had to take into account modeling uncertainty when they decided where to draw the line in their current policies. Kerry then asked why it was reasonable for the EU to accept the Kyoto targets, to which the response was that Europe has different economic conditions than the US. Switching gears, Kerry focused in on the theory of emissions intensity. He had applied the theory to the period from 1991 to 1999. During that time the US experienced a decrease in emissions intensity, and increase in GDP, and a 12% increase in emissions. He asked why Americans should be satisfied with the use of emissions intensity in our emissions goal. Hubbard answered that it is too costly to pursue rapid change to which Kerry countered it depended on what assumptions you were using about the economy -- Hubbard's were obviously that environmental changes would impact the economy negatively. When Hubbard said he was unaware of any positive impacts Kerry offered several examples, stating the certainty provided by establishing specific goals is often beneficial for companies. Hubbard was not convinced, saying that he was not aware of a model suggesting that the economy as a whole would benefit from a carbon tax and that a lot of institution building had to take place before a cap and trade system would work. Kerry was aggravated again, pointing out that Massachusetts is implementing a cap and trade system.
Connaughton shifted the argument by commenting that all countries must cease their business as usual behaviors, and pointed out that US progress has not come without costs. Kerry answered that he has talked to many countries about the need for their inclusion but no effort has taken place to actually make this happen. He continued that he was disturbed to learn that the administration had worked with many developing countries, including Saudi Arabia, to dilute the IPCC role. When a witness offered that Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Germany are all adopting emission intensity targets Kerry was not consoled, "oh great, we are leading the way for even more of a tragedy." He offered this as a perfect example of the key role the US plays in modeling policies on this issue, as all economies compete in a world market and pay attention to US decisions.
Kerry ended the hearing by stating his reasoning on the issue of climate change.
Too many scientists and people he respects have accepted the science, leaders
of other countries are frustrated and bewildered by US non-action. He is not
crazy, he understands the importance of the economy but he has a different view
on how to fix the problem. He proposed that corporations are called to the table
to discuss a sensible way to make significant emissions reductions. As it is
now, the US is encouraging other countries to get out of their responsibilities.
The current inability to come up with an innovative, progressive plan is a tragedy.
The Bottom Line
On July 10th, the House Science Committee gathered to hear Bush Administration representatives discuss the president's proposed climate change initiative. Three issues were dominant throughout the testimony, including expressed concern over the potential for climate change, the globally unparalleled levels of money being spent on R&D, and the need to react to all new scientific information in a rational way. Robert Card, Undersecretary for Energy, Science, and Environment at the US Department of Energy, summed up the administration's plan as seeking a "gradual transition, motivated by prices and markets, guided and paced by science, facilitated by new technology, and underpinned by supporting and coordinated domestic and international policies." Representatives had many questions for the witnesses surrounding the topic of climate change. Reactions to the testimony and the administration's position on climate change were varied.
Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman
Ralph M. Hall (D-TX), Ranking Member
Connie A. Morella (R-MD)
Lynn Rivers (D-MI)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Bob Etheridge (D-NC)
Nick Smith (R-MI)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
David Wu (D-OR)
George R. Nethercutt, Jr. (R-WA)
Steve J. Israel (D-NY)
On July 10th, the House Committee on Science held a hearing to review the Bush Administration's Climate Change Initiative. Three Administration witnesses testified: John Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); James Mahoney, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and Robert Card, Undersecretary for Energy, Science, and Environment at the US Department of Energy (DOE). Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) opened the hearing by informing the panel of the trouble he and other members had experienced when they tried to get consistent information about the directions and intentions of the Bush Administration's plans and actions to address climate change. He expressed his hope that some of the questions would be answered during the hearing.
Marburger began by expressing the president's concern on the climate change issue, and his recognition of the important leadership role the US holds in dealing with this challenge. Marburger also highlighted President Bush's proposal of the Clear Skies Initiative, marking the renewal of US commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention and its goal to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will maintain Earth and human health. Immediately following this statement, however, Marburger stated the Bush viewpoint that scientific uncertainties are preventing an actual level to be formulated at this time. These same scientific uncertainties are what have led the Bush Administration to its current position on climate change policy -- to go ahead with policy changes that are sure to maintain a healthy US economy and to continue research on the issue in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanics and likely future of climate change.
The remainder of Marburger's testimony focused on the research Bush has requested to be done and misconceptions surrounding resulting reports. He quoted the 2001 National Academy of Sciences Report, explaining that it is often not quoted in its entirety, which changes its true meaning: "The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability." He expanded on this quote, stating that the causal link between the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate change is not 100%. Although data suggest this relationship to exist, it is not certain, as significant uncertainties still exist. He also addressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Action Report and confusion upon its release. While many interpreted this report as an acknowledgement of a "dire, near-term threat to the environment from climate change," this is simply not true. Because of the difficulties associated with modeling future climate, and uncertainties of climate models, the scenarios presented in the climate change report were simply projections, not predictions, as to what could happen in the future if certain conditions are present. He emphasized the difference between projections and predictions, the former being much less certain than the latter. As a result of the high degree of uncertainty associated with climate change, the president's fiscal year 2003 budget proposal allots $2.9 billion to climate change research as well as to technologies with the potential to minimize possible impacts on climate change.
Mahoney reiterated Marburger's message that the Bush Administration is "committed to making full use of our best scientific information to determine optimal investments and actions. . . to mitigate adverse anthropogenic changes, and to adapt to unavoidable natural changes" as well as the desire to prevent taking a "ready-fire-aim" approach to climate change. His testimony provided an overview of the global change and climate change research that has taken place to date, including the research the president had requested. In the past 13 years the US has contributed more to climate change research than any other nation, with a total investment in the area of $20 billion. Understanding of earth systems and resulting models have undoubtedly improved in the past several years. Climate change research has graduated from a "period of discovery and characterization" -- as we now know that we do have a problem -- to a new "period of differentiation and strategy investigation" -- in which we know that there is a problem and now are searching for the proper solution. The theme of the president's Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). Along with his announcement of the CCRI he called for increased collaboration between agencies involved in global change research and creating the Interagency Climate Change Science Program. This interagency group would be responsible for overseeing the release of an annual report of recent findings and short-term plans and the creation of a ten-year strategic plan to be published in 2003. It would also organize scientific reviews of work being done by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in order to ensure a "robust review" of all activities. By increasing the scientific study the administration feels it will be supplied with an increasingly robust set of decision making tools.
The president's views on climate change were expressed once again when Card gave his testimony on the National Climate Change Technology Initiate (NCCTI), one of several initiatives and programs that have been created to carry out research and development (R&D) addressing climate change. The main goal of all this research, Card explained, is to create energy-saving and emissions-reducing technologies that can be deployed as soon as it is cost-effective to do so. Card's statement made clear that R&D is the main pillar of the "integrated, comprehensive and sensible approach to global climate change" that the Bush Administration has chosen. This importance was most apparent, perhaps, in the eight steps he listed as the continuing effort to address climate change, all of which were R&D related. The US goal, set by President Bush, to reduce emissions intensity -- emissions per unit of GDP -- by 18% by 2012 was also announced, and Card listed off additional progress made to date. This list includes: completed reviews of the DOE energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, which will help to make these programs as effective as possible; the initiation of the FreedomCar initiative to build fuel cell powered vehicles; expanded public education; and increased assistance for low-income households to help improve their energy efficiency and pay energy bills.
The representatives had many questions for the witnesses following their testimony. Boehlert asked what role NCCTI was expected to play in the national goal of decreasing emissions intensity by 2012. Card responded that NCCTI is to manage two simultaneous goals: to meet the 18% reduction goal, which is meaningful and difficult yet achievable and to focus on areas where changes can be implemented within this timeframe, areas not requiring large infrastructure changes. At the end of the question and answer period Boehlert returned to this line of questioning, asking how the DOE plans to spend the $40 million dollars for NCCTI. Card answered that the administration wants to launch dedicated, open-ended procurement for climate change technologies -- fuel cells, geological sequestration, biotechnology, alternative fuels, etc. -- that they are looking to start this year.
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) asked what level of emissions stabilization the administration envisioned and when they thought it might be achieved. When Marburger responded that they did not know at this time, Udall responded that this does not seem like much of a policy without a target emisions level and a date to achieve it. He continued that it seems like a lot of rhetoric and not a lot of action. Marburger replied that a direct emissions goal could hurt the economy and Card added that one can think of a goal as an economic driver. Udall ended his time by highlighting the concern that people suggest net emissions will increase with the goal of 18% emissions intensity reduction, a concern that he shares.
Rep. Ralph Hall (D-TX) brought up the issue of nuclear power. He asked what its potential was and brought up the point that the nuclear industry has done a poor job of educating the public about realities of nuclear power and safety issues. Card responded that he agreed with Hall and said the US cannot be serious about climate change without being serious about nuclear power. The safety and performance record of the industry is excellent, the president supports it, and plans to make and restart nuclear power plants are underway. Hall then (half-joking) expressed his personal opinion that the US should drill for oil wherever it can, a statement to which Boehlert responded there is a "little thing called conservation that would serve a very valuable purpose . . . we can't drill our way out" of oil dependence.
Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-MI) then questioned the administration intention to adjust its emissions goals if sound science suggesting better goals presents itself. She asked Marburger what empirical information the administration is hoping for. Marburger replied that he did not think models can be used for this purpose as they are, and most likely always will be, inadequate. He shared her frustration that empirical evidence always does seem to come too late, and offered the president's intensity goal as the compromise the administration was offering. This did not satisfy Rivers, who then asked how the administration could refer to itself as a worldwide leader. He responded that the US is leading the world in climate change research. She then pointed out that this research was enough to lead many countries to take actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, why was this enough for them and not for us. He countered that no other country needs to decrease their current emissions by more than we do. Rivers then said, "Ok, so we can't do anything?" Marburger replied, "of course we can...economic incentives."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) began his questions by asking the three witnesses if they believe they are observing an increase in temperature due to human influences. All three gave vague responses along the lines of "can't say" and "it seems it could be so." He then asked how much money is being spent to confirm whether or not this human-induced warming exists, which witnesses answered to be around $2 billion. Rohrabacher then expressed his belief that this level of spending was being irresponsible with taxpayers' money and referred to concerns over climate change as "chicken little syndrome" and "nonsense". Marburger responded that consequences of human-induced global warming could be very severe and that is why it must be studied. Rohrabacher was not swayed and made it clear that he views these debates as a huge waste of time and money.
Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), a scientist himself, pointed out that it is often very difficult for the public to understand scientific uncertainty and that they understand there is something going on but are not sure what it is. Global warming may be occurring but what should be of greatest concern is global climate change. He was amazed at the progress that has been made in understanding the mechanics of the atmosphere and climate. Scientists now know that when greenhouse gases are put in the air they increase the energy in the atmosphere. Some effects of this will be beneficial and some effects will not. He expressed his concern about the management of what is going on and explained that methods to deal with crosscutting issues must be developed. So many agencies are now involved with this issue that there seems to be "potential for disaster." He asked for the panelists' opinions on this issue, and also asked for their ideas on strategies to decrease the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere as well as mitigation and adaptation strategies. Marburger addressed Ehlers's concerns about multiple agencies working on the same thing, saying that the current structure does include the coordination of these offices. Card agreed that the structure works well, adding that it allows more issues to be brought to the table as well as being able to leverage a lot more funding. In terms of mitigation, he said that the president has outlined a series of steps to slow, stop, and reverse (as needed) emissions and pointed out that the costs between new and current technologies is small.
Rep. David Wu (D-OR) asked for specific examples of effects of global warming
that can be expected, something which Marburger and Mahoney explained is not
currently possible to say. Rep. Nick Smith's (R-MI) questions continued along
these lines and witness responses were the same.
The Bottom Line
On July 24, 2001, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met to hear testimony on voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies for the energy industry and other members of the private sector. The hearing focused on general practices and technologies, such as carbon sequestration, that companies are pursuing to reduce emissions, and discussed several bills related to the issue. Introduced May 2001, the Forest Resources for the Environment and the Economy Act (S. 820) seeks to increase carbon storage on national forests and to facilitate voluntary and accurate reporting of forest projects that reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Provisions of two other bills from the 106th Congress dealing with climate change issues, S. 882 and S. 1776, were also brought up in hearing discussion. Speaking at the hearing were administration representatives from the Department of Energy and the U.S. Forest Service as well as representatives of the private sector addressing the efforts of industry to address climate change concerns. Full text of witness testimony can be found at the committee's website under "Hearings" and then "Full Committee."
Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) opened the hearing with a comment on the current status of the Kyoto Protocol, in which the US has chosen not to participate. Bingaman stated that the two major criticisms that the US had of the protocol--the exclusion of developing nations from the requirements and the potential adverse effect on the US economy--should not have resulted in abandonment. Moreover, he stated that these concerns were being addressed in revisions at the Bonn meetings. He did commend the private sector for its work on addressing emission problems. Ranking Member Frank Murkowski (R-AK) expressed the opposite view of Kyoto in his opening remarks, stating that in Bonn the protocol went from bad to worse, with more restrictions on market mechanisms and the exclusion of nuclear energy from the plan--sentiments that the industry witnesses would echo later in the hearing.
The first panel of witnesses were administration representatives. The Honorable Francis Blake, Deputy Secretary of Energy, spoke to the committee about provisions in the President's energy plan and other administration actions to deal with climate change. Blake discussed Bush's National Climate Change Technology Initiative, a plan that seeks to strengthen research at the federal government's national laboratories, increase public-private partnerships in research and development ventures, increase funding for climate change response measures, and improve greenhouse gas emission measuring and monitoring systems. Mr. Christopher Risbrudt, Acting Associate Deputy Chief for Programs and Legislation for the US Forest Service, directed his testimony towards S. 802, the Forest Resources for the Environment and the Economy Act. Risbrudt stated that the Forest Service supported the bill, with the exception of a few minor language issues. Asserting that he hoped the bill would encourage sequestration on federal, state, and private lands, he expanded on the sequestration issue by pointing out that 50% of trees' dry weight is carbon and that they have a great potential for carbon storage. Risbrudt also advocated further study on the issue.
In a question period following the first panel, Bingaman criticized Bush's energy plan for not integrating climate change response measures into the overall plan. Blake responded by saying that 50% of the recommendations in the plan have direct bearing on CO2 emissions, such as efficiency improvements, increasing research and development, and increasing use of renewables. During this period, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) also took the time to remind the committee that in 1997, the Senate passed a resolution (S. RES. 98) 95-0 stating opposition to any international binding climate-change treaties that either did not include developing nations or resulted in serious harm to the US economy. He also noted that 78 of the 95 Senators who passed the resolution are still in the Senate today.
The second panel of witnesses spoke to the committee from the perspective of private sector industries that have been undertaking voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. John Campbell, Vice President of Industrial Products and Government Relations for Ag Processing, Inc., and Mr. Gene Gebolys, President of World Energy, both expressed their support of S. 802 and other measures to implement sequestration programs. Mr. Frank Cassidy, President and Chief Operating Officer of PSEG Power, also expressed his support for the legislation along with mandatory targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Gardiner Hill, CO2 Program Director for British Petroleum, elaborated on some of the measures his company has implemented to reduce emissions. Hill strongly supported carbon sequestration in both forests and in geologic formations.
Lastly, Mr. John Lyons, a Professor in the Practice of Resource Management at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, informed the committee about some of the impacts of carbon sequestration on agricultural and forest lands. In their normal life processes, plants operate by taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen; therefore, it has been reported that one effect of sequestration projects would be increased agricultural production. Lyons, however, stated that this would not necessarily be good news because the surplus of products would result in lower market prices and thus lower profits for farmers. For forests, he stated that increased amounts of carbon would have a number of effects including increasing the fire hazard and changing the landscape of the affected area. From a policy standpoint, Lyons also emphasized that efforts to enhance sequestration programs on farm and forest lands cannot be isolated, and should be part of a comprehensive plan to deal with CO2 emissions.
The Bottom Line
On July 18, 2001, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee met to hear testimony on S. 1008, the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act of 2001. Sponsored by Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), the bill aims to amend the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and develop a United States Climate Change Response Strategy with a goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere without adverse economic impacts. Another major provision of the bill is to create a National Office of Climate Change Response within the Executive Office of the President. Other goals of the bill are aligning the climate change response strategy with a national energy policy, promoting sound national environmental policy, creating an independent review board to report to Congress in order to ensure that goals are achieved, and establishing a research and development program office in the Department of Energy (DOE) for climate change response technology. Sen. Byrd spoke at the hearing in support of his bill. Other speakers included scientists working on climate change issues and representatives from industry and economic interests.
In his opening statements, Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT) called global climate change the greatest environmental challenge facing the US and the world today. He advocated an international agreement with binding targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and criticized President Bush's decision to walk away from the Kyoto Protocol. Recognizing the debates existing within the US government about the proper way to respond to climate change, Lieberman called S. 1008 a "common ground" that both sides of the debate could support and move forward with a climate change response. Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) added opening remarks that applauded the President's rejection of Kyoto due to the unfair and expensive limits placed on the US. Thompson did state, however, that he was in favor of meeting the requirements set out by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Byrd was the first witness to speak, outlining the major provisions of the bill and the reasons behind them. He stated that S. 1008 established "a regime of responsibility and accountability in the federal sector for the development of a national climate change response strategy." Byrd also clarified his position on binding international agreements like Kyoto, which he has voted against in the past. Although he affirmed that he voted for a Senate Resolution in 1997 (S. RES. 98) that would not give consent to any international binding climate change treaties that either did not include developing nations or resulted in serious harm to the US economy, Byrd stated that the resolution should not be used as an excuse for the US "to abandon its shared responsibility to help find a solution to the global climate change dilemma." Byrd also emphasized that S. 1008 was intended to serve as a complement and not a replacement to other greenhouse gas mitigation measures. Stevens, who sits on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, also added his comments on the bill by stating that he views climate change in the same category as medical research in terms of importance--he called for a doubling of the climate change R&D budget in coming years.
The second panel spoke more generally about climate change issues. Dr. James Hansen, Head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, spoke about climate forcing agents other than CO2 that are also responsible for effecting climate change. Hansen stated that not only would reducing non-CO2 forcing agents such as black carbon help reduce global warming, but also would contribute substantially to the improvement of global public health, especially in the area of respiratory infections and disorders. Kyoto does not address non-CO2 forcing agents. Mr. Thomas Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, focused his testimony on some of the current science of global warming as well as identifying several weak links in the current climate change response research. The major weakness Karl mentioned was the lack of an accurate climate observing system, which would be useful for future climate predictions and research. When the two witnesses were asked about their opinion on the effectiveness of a measure like S. 1008, both responded that the implementation of an coordinated effort could only improve the US's response to climate change.
From the third panel, Mrs. Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, characterized S. 1008 as an important first step in developing a serious climate change strategy, and called for the US Response Strategy to be developed within one year of the passage of the bill. Dr. James Edmonds, Senior Staff Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, spoke about the funding for S. 1008, and outlined three important aspects to a response strategy: cumulative concentrations of greenhouse gases, advances in technology to control costs, and a portfolio of energy R&D investments as another way to manage costs. Mr. Dale Heydlauff, Senior Vice-President of Environmental Affairs at American Electric Power Company that is the largest consumer of coal in the US, called for accelerated R&D to be deployed on a global scale-- energy R&D has decreased 47% in the last decade.
Mr. Jonathan Lash, President of the World Resources Institute, praised S. 1008 for recognizing the threat of global climate change and creating a forum for dialogue on the issue. Lash stated that the US has been more focused on what it is opposed to than what it is for, emphasizing the cost of this inaction. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist for the American Council for Capital Formation, addressed some of the shortfalls of S. 1008. Among those she listed were that the bill does not address the deployment of relevant technology or nuclear power. S. 1008 also does not address bilateral cooperation with developing countries, an issue of great importance to the current administration. However, the overall sentiment of the hearing was that S. 1008 was not expected to resolve the ongoing debates on climate change. Instead, its contribution would be to put in place a centralized effort to deal with the issues as well as increase research and development on technologies that can serve the US and the world in the future.
Hearing on Climate Change Technology and Policy
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
July 10, 2001
The Bottom Line
On July 10, 2001, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation met to hear testimony on technological and policy options that may serve as starting points for mitigating anthropogenic contributions to global climate change. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was Acting Chair for the hearing in the absence of Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings (D-SC). Kerry opened the hearing by calling for a movement beyond the scientific debates that have prevented Congress from taking any legislative action to address climate change thus far. He did praise former Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) for the committee's previous work on the subject. Witnesses included a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) representative, the lone representative of the current administration, as well as two other panels of witness representing climate change analysis efforts and proponents of alternative energy sources, respectively. Kerry expressed dismay that representatives from the State Department and White House Chief of Staff declined to testify at the hearing.
Kerry emphasized in his opening statements that the committee leadership had no preconceived order of priorities on how to address climate change through legislation, but added that one general goal was to move from polluting technologies to sustainable technologies. McCain discussed in his opening remarks the diversity of technologies potentially available to mitigate climate change. He not only gave credit to the many industries that have voluntarily undertaken initiatives to reduce emissions, but also stated that he was for mandatory emission reductions.
Mr. David Evans, Assistant Administrator at NOAA, comprised the first panel. Evans underscored two fundamental points in his testimony. First, that the natural greenhouse effect is real and is an essential component of the planet's natural climate process. Second, that a change is occurring in the greenhouse radiation balance as a result of anthropogenically-caused increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ultimately causing the atmosphere to trap more heat. Evans stated that the best models thus far have been those that attribute warming to both natural and human causes, although he emphasized that changes have taken some time to show themselves, and their effects will take an equally slow time to reverse. In response to a related question from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) about the effects of legislation, he held that dramatic policy actions would not yield immediate results but would have long-lived consequences.
When questioned by Kerry, Evans was reluctant to give specific answers to the best way to shape policy efforts, stating instead that he could really only speak from a scientific perspective. He did state, however, that a useful relationship between policymakers and the scientific community to address climate change mitigation efforts might take the form of a partnership wherein scientists would review the effectiveness and consequences of specific measures suggested by policymakers. Kerry was generally disappointed in some of the President's actions, such as reneging on his CO2 emissions campaign promise and formulating an energy plan that would increase emissions by 35%--which he characterized as directly contrary to climate change mitigation efforts.
The second panel of witnesses were representatives of various industries supporting alternative energy sources, such as wind, nuclear, and fuel cells. Mr. William Miller, President of International Fuel Cells, informed the committee about the latest in fuel cell technology, including when they might expect widespread availability in the commercial market. Mr. John German, Manager of Environmental Affairs at American Honda Motor Company added to the subject, discussing the potential for fuel cells to replace the polluting internal combustion engine in automobiles. When run with natural gas, fuel cells emit lower amounts of CO2, and emit no CO2 if fueled by liquid hydrogen. German was careful to add that people must be realistic about the time scale fuel cells vehicles, giving an estimate of 10 to 20 years for mainstream use.
Representing the nuclear industry was Ms. Maureen Koetz, Director of Environmental Policy and Programs for the Nuclear Energy Institute. She spoke about the role of nuclear technology in mitigating climate change, emphasizing the lack of emissions that result from nuclear generation of energy. Koetz also addressed safety and waste issues--two of the major obstacles in the way of nuclear power gaining ground in the US. Mr. Dennis Duffy, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Energy Management Inc. spoke to the committee about the potential of wind energy. Among the positives about wind that Duffy listed was the potential for multiple land use--farmers being able to produce crops and energy simultaneously. When speaking about the benefits of renewables in general, both Duffy and Koetz included a diversification of supply and decreased dependence on foreign oil.
The last member of the second panel, Mr. Daniel Kammen, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley and Director of the Energy Resources Group, spoke about the market support necessary to make the newer, cleaner, and sustainable technologies viable. Kammen emphasized three main points with respect to the market for renewables. First, the US could meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol requirements with economic benefit--a statement recently advocated by a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study. The US should not pick "individual winners," but instead should develop an energy portfolio. Lastly, the need for a technology push accompanied by market pull for clean energy. He named the rollercoaster funding for research and development as one of the impediments for widespread acceptance of renewable energy sources.
The third panel of witnesses offered ideas and suggestions for solutions to climate change mitigation efforts. One idea supported by all the panelists was the carbon cap and trade system for the private sector, which would allow more polluting industries to pay less polluting ones to keep their emissions low in order to stay within an overall cap for carbon emissions. Mr. Richard Sandor, President and CEO of Environmental Financial Products, Mr. Frank Cassidy, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG), and Ms. Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, both advocated making the emission caps legally binding, stating that mandatory caps would be necessary for long-term reductions of the concentrations of greenhouse gases. Mr. David Hawkins, Director of Climate Science for the National Resources Defense Council, who was also favored mandatory caps, mentioned several pieces of legislation currently in Congress related to mitigation strategies. One is S. 556, dealing with caps on pollutants from power plants, and a second is S. 207, addressing tax incentives for buildings to use renewable sources for their energy needs. Hawkins stated that it was critical for the government to signal to the private sector that they are serious about climate change and efforts to mitigate its effects.
Full text of opening statements and witness testimony is available at the Senate Commerce Committee's website under: Climate Change Technology and Policy Options, July 10, 2001.
The Bottom Line
On June 28, 2001, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convened to hear testimony on science and technology related to climate change issues. Witnesses from the first panel were members of the National Academy of Science committee commissioned to help inform the Administration on the greatest certainties and uncertainties related to climate change. On the second panel were witnesses offering perspectives on the various technologies with which humans can potentially respond to climate change. Although attendance was sparse due to a concurrent Department of the Interior Appropriations bill mark-up session, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) were present to hear the panels' testimonies on this particular facet of the climate change issue.
Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) opened the hearing by reiterating some of the statements from the recent NAS report, "Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions." He mentioned the consensus among many in the scientific community that warming is occurring, and that humans are a major contributor. Bingaman lamented the decentralization of the science and technology system in the United States, claiming that current technologies are out of date, and existing programs are not adequate to meet the technological needs of effective climate change response. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) also added opening comments, cautioning that the federal government should base policy on science and not emotion. Murkowski characterized the NAS report as a call to improve the current technologies analyzing climate change, especially modeling and monitoring technologies, but still called the controversial Kyoto Protocol "flawed," stating that it put unfair limits on the United States.
The three first-panel witnesses were each members of the NAS committee that prepared the report for President Bush just prior to his trip to Europe to discuss the Kyoto Protocol. Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, Professor of Chemistry and Earth Systems Science at the University of California, Irvine; Dr. Eric J. Barron, Professor of Geoscience and Director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Environment Institute at Pennsylvania State University; and Dr. John M. Wallace, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, each addressed the NAS committee's responses to the questions laid out in the administration's inquiry.
Although all the information that the first panel of witnesses discussed can be found in the text of the NAS report, some of the topics that were emphasized were the range of natural variability in climate change, the projected changes in the next 100 years, and the effects of various magnitudes of climate change. The witnesses also discussed the use of the report for policy-making, specifically addressing the sometimes-criticized Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Summary for Policymakers. Dr. Barron addressed this question, stating that the IPCC summaries were "a fine assessment of the state of science," but conceded that there were differences between the IPCC report and the summaries by way of translating the material.
Senator Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) inquiries to the first panel about what he characterized as "vast amounts of uncertainty" led into the second panel's testimony on the options and shortfalls that the United States current has in its technological arsenal to deal with climate change. The resounding theme of each of the four members' testimonies was the more research and development, the better. Dr. Jae Edmonds, Senior Staff Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, emphasized that technology is the key to controlling the cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) stabilization. Dr. Edmonds also stated that the best approach is a comprehensive program to address climate change that includes a diverse portfolio of energy R&D investments. Mr. Bill Chandler, Director of the Advanced International Studies Unit at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory cited the United States' tremendous opportunity to influence climate change response around the world by developing a portfolio of energy efficient measures and facilitating a coordination of global efforts to respond to climate change.
Dr. Robert Friedman, Vice President for Research at The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment; and Dr. Mark Levine, Director of the Environmental Energies Technology Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, both reiterated the need for more R&D, and emphasized that the success of new technologies in an overall approach will depend heavily on effective public policy.
The Bottom Line
On May 23rd, the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space held a hearing to examine issues related to carbon sequestration. Subcommittee Chairman Sam Brownback (R-KS) opened the hearing with comments on his legislation that "encourages conservation practices . . . that convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbon trapped in soil and trees, [a process that] helps reduce the threat of global climate change, and improves the quality of our soil, water, air, and wildlife habitat." The panel outlined current research on measuring carbon in the soil and the forest vegetation and discussed current carbon sequestration projects which have been successful.
The witnesses included: Dale Heydlauff (PDF format), Senior Vice President for Environmental Affairs, American Electric Power; Dr. John Kimble (PDF format), Soil Science Researcher, U.S. Department of Agriculture; John Kadyszewski (PDF format), Advisor to the President, Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development; Mike Coda (PDF format), Director, Climate Change Program, Nature Conservancy; and Robert Bonnie (PDF format), Economist, Environmental Defense.
Heydlauff outlined the goals and progress of the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project in Bolivia -- a joint project with American Electric Power Company (AEP) and the Nature Conservancy -- that is the largest carbon sequestration project in the world. The project components include: expansion and protection of the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, providing community assistance by hiring local park rangers, establishing loan funds and enhancing health care programs, monitoring carbon changes, creating a endowment fund to provide long-term project sustainability, and working with the Bolivian government to relocate logging activities. Heydlauff explained that AEP's motivation to invest in this and other projects follows its interest to participate proactively in industry-government programs with goals of reducing, avoiding and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions.
Kimble described the importance of carbon in the soil. The benefits of increasing soil carbon include enhanced productivity and sustainability of farms as well as improvement air and water quality. The USDA uses long-term data collection to develop models to accurately determine the amount of carbon present in the soil as well as predict changes in carbon levels. These models are capable of taking data points and scaling them over a larger area for regional assessments with verifiable results. Remote sensing data coupled with the model data will also improve the output. Kimble emphasized that the ability to measure soil carbon changes over time should change the focus of agricultural to less wasteful and more conserving soil management practices.
Kadyszewski described the current methods used by Winrock International to measure and monitor carbon changes in specific land use or forestry projects. From experience with forestry and agroforestry projects, methods have been developed to accurately measure carbon to known levels of precision. These methods are at costs well below the expected value of the emissions reduction credits. Emissions trading of carbon would lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, mitigate potential climate change impacts on people, agriculture systems, and ecosystems; protect watersheds and biodiversity, and may provide new sources of income to rural communities. Higher amounts of carbon in the forest and soils is beneficial for agriculture, and revenues from emissions trading may be used to implement new and more efficient land management practice. Kadyszewski explained Winrock uses broadly accepted peer-review methods and procedure for measurements, verification and certification.
Coda testified that the Nature Conservancy strongly supports carbon sequestration programs with a dual focus on impacting both the build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gases and biodiversity conservation. The Nature Conservancy is currently a partner in carbon sequestration projects in Bolivia, Brazil, Belize, and the United States. Carbon sequestration targeting the preservation and restoration of natural forests is a plausible tool to stabilize and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as well as protecting the biodiversity, protecting the watershed, and preventing soil erosion. Carbon sequestration projects also are economically preferable since costs are typically less than $10 per ton carbon compared to cost estimates for compliance with the Kyoto Protocol that range between $25 and $200 per ton carbon. Coda concluded by emphasizing the need to establish a new societal value to these rich carbon forest areas where it is not necessary to clear the trees or develop residential communities for the landowners to obtain greater land values.
Bonnie testified that Environmental Defense focuses on climate change and the role of carbon sequestration activities in dealing with climate change. "Cap and trade" programs, noted for their success in dealing with controlling sulfur dioxide emissions in the early 1990's, have been recommended as possible models for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. With this program, industries would be required to cap their emissions but would be allowed to trade emissions reductions credits in a market. For a similar program to work for sequestration activities, industries would need to develop a carbon accounting system that is transparent, verifiable, and that ensures the atmospheric benefit. A sequestration market should encourage an alteration of land management practices as well, for additional reduction in greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Bonnie concluded that a combination of carbon sequestration projects with a cap and trade market for greenhouse gas will provide a cost-effective strategy for managing climate change.
The Bottom Line
On May 2nd, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to gather information on the current state of global climate change and solutions to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Committee Chairman Robert Smith (R-NH) opened the hearing by cautioning the committee and Congress to proceed carefully with legislation involving the reduction of CO2 emissions, stating that "an appropriate policy should recognize both the economic and environmental hazards of too little or too much action regarding climate change." Ranking Democrat Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) countered by advocating the need for a plan that reduces emissions, citing President Bush's energy policy plan as counterproductive to this cause. Testifying before the committee were several meteorologists and atmospheric scientists, as well as an energy corporation executive.
Several witnesses focused on assessing the current state of global climate change, weighing in individually on such issues as the suitability of climate models and accuracy of projected scenarios. Giving a general overview of the current science of climate change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's involvement in the process of assessing and reporting the information was Kevin E. Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth lauded the climate models used in the IPCC report as the basis for analyzing key issues in global climate change. He supports the IPCC finding that there is a "discernible human influence on global climate" originating from the advances of the Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century. Trenberth also emphasized the rate at which climate change is occurring, characterizing it as "exceed[ing] anything seen in nature in the past 10,000 years."
John R. Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, also noted his concern about the rate at which climate change seems to be occurring, but was doubtful of the catastrophic predictions that come out of popular perceptions of global climate change. He stated that it is the magnitude of the change over such a geologically short period of time that will harm ecosystems and nature's normal cycle of adaptation.
In his testimony, Richard S. Lindzen, a participant and an author in the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, expressed concern over the popular perception in the science community of global warming, and the filtering effect of media and governmental policy aims on reported information. He reported that there are many issues that scientists studying global warming agree on, but that media and advocacy groups tend to oversimplify the information and make drastic conclusions that the data does not quantitatively support. Questioning the accuracy of the computer models predicting response to CO2, Lindzen asserted that what knowledge the scientific community does possess points towards a series of minimal impacts rather than "catastrophic consequences".
Other witnesses focused on several potential solutions for the problems the nation and the earth may face in the future. The testimony of Jae Edmonds of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Battelle Memorial Institute focused on two major topics: the timing of measures necessary to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the need to expedite the development of technologies that can aid in these measures in order to mitigate costs. Rattan Lal, Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Program at the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center at Ohio State University, spoke to the committee about the role of soil carbon sequestration in reducing net gaseous emissions. His testimony he cautioned that through processes not well understood, the erosion of soil organic matter (SOM) can cause the carbon that once resided in the SOM to be released into the atmosphere, adding to CO2 concentrations. He advocated utilizing SOM as a temporary sink for carbon, buying time for the nation to develop alternative energy options.
An energy corporation head--James E. Rogers of the Cinergy Corporation--outlined his company's commitment to the environment and emphasized the growing need for a comprehensive emissions reduction program for power plants. Director of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Marilyn Brown spoke to the committee about a study she authored entitled Scenarios for a Clean Energy Future, a comprehensive assessment of the current technologies and policies addressing energy issues in the United States. In her testimony she outlined the numerous advantages of pursuing alternative energy solutions, and their great potential to alleviate the current energy burden faced by the nation.
link to full text of written testimony and opening statements
The Bottom Line
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened on May 1, 2001, to discuss the third report in a series done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), known as the Third Assessment Report, which asserts a firmer association between human activities and global climate change. Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) opened the hearing by giving a brief overview of the purpose of the IPCC's assessment reports and discussing their implications for future science and policy decisions, including the status of the Kyoto Protocol (Full Text) . McCain emphasized his interest in achieving a full understanding of this global issue so as to appropriately incorporate the information into effective policy measures. Several Senators as well as scientists involved with the report spoke to the committee about the latest set of issues regarding the state of global climate change.
Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Larry Craig (R-ID), who have co-sponsored legislation to increase research funding for climate change, were respectfully critical of the conclusions drawn by the IPCC Assessment reports, with Hagel calling the IPCC summaries of the reports "[not] science, they're UN politics" (IPCC Summary for Policy Makers in PDF). Both Senators expressed their concern that legislation based on the information in the reports may be hasty and more harmful to the economy than helpful to climate change. Both opposed the "draconian" measures of the Kyoto Protocol and advocate further research on the matter before appropriate policy is decided.
Venkatachala Ramaswamy, Senior Scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, summarized the findings of the IPCC's Third Assessment Report for the Committee (available at IPCC) . He reported that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that the report expects. After his summarization, Ramaswamy emphasized that warming caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations could only be reversed very slowly, and responsive policy would have to reflect that.
James J. McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University who worked on Working Group II of the report, also spoke to the committee about some of the Third Assessments other new findings. In his testimony he underscored the effects that climate change will have on developing nations that are less adequately equipped to deal with some of the report's projected adverse effects such as disease and water shortages. Jayant Sathaye of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley focused his testimony on the finding of Working Group III of the report, which describes the potential costs of technologies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and stabilize atmospheric concentrations in the long term. Sathaye iterated that the participation of all countries is necessary to achieve stabilization of GHG emissions.
Dr. James E. Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, presented the theories of a paper he co-authored entitled Global Warming in the Twenty-first Century: an Alternative Scenario (full text in PDF). Hansen reported that he still supports reducing air pollution and continued reduction in CO2 emissions, but subscribes to a more moderate theory of climate change. He pointed out that while his paper is not intended to be a criticism of the IPCC reports, it does differ in the projected magnitude and effects of global climate change.
link to full text of opening statements and written testimony
The Bottom Line
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) held his first climate change hearing on March 14th. It focused on gaps in current knowledge and future needs for a comprehensive research agenda. In his opening statement, Boehlert announced that the committee will hold future hearings to address climate change policy issues. He called the Bush Administration's reversal of its position on carbon dioxide emissions earlier that day "misguided and unjustified." Boehlert's opening remarks and statements made by other committee members made clear that most of them support continued research into the still unresolved questions surrounding climate change. The representatives, not strictly along party lines, disagreed on what current science is telling us, and what if anything should be done about it.
Three scientists testified before the committee. Dr. Daniel Albritton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began his remarks by stating that it has long been known that the greenhouse effect is real and humans are responsible for increasing the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The remainder of his testimony focused on the findings of the first part of the IPCC report -- that the earth has warmed in the last century, that the observed warming can be attributed to human activities, and that continued rise in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will result in continued temperature increases.
Dr. Berrian Moore of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space outlined areas that need further study in order to understand and predict climate change phenomena. His recommendations included updating and improving observational networks, research into the mechanics of radiative forcing as well as other feedbacks in the climate system, understanding long-term climate variability, and improving models that predict climate change and its effects.
Dr. Charles Kennel of Scripps Institution of Oceanography made recommendations based on the NRC report Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. This report found that the federal government needs to ensure that observing systems detecting global changes such as climate variability are comprehensive and sustained. Information provided through better observation by well coordinated government agencies would be beneficial to the nation as a whole. The American Geophysical Union and the American Institute of Physics also provide summaries of the hearing. (3/20/01)
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Contributed by Spring 2001 AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Intern Mary Patterson, and Summer 2001 AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Michelle Williams and Caetie Ofiesh
Posted June 1, 2001; Last Updated August 2, 2001
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