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Summary of Hearings on Climate Change (12-8-06)

  • December 6, 2006: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Hearing on Climate Change and the Media
  • September 20, 2006: House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy, Hearing on "Department of Energy's Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs"
  • September 20, 2006: House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Research, Hearing on "International Polar Year: The Scientific Agenda and the Federal Role"
  • July 27, 2006: House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Hearing on "Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments" - Part II
  • July 20, 2006: House Committee on Government Reform, Hearing on "Climate Change: Understanding the Degree of the Problem"
  • July 19, 2006: House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Hearing on "Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments" - Part I
  • April 26, 2006: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Global Climate Change, Hearing on "Projected and Past Effects of Climate Change: A Focus on Marine and Terrestrial Systems"
  • November 14, 2005: Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hearing on U.S.-International Climate Change Approach: A Clean Technology Solution
  • October 5, 2005: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Hearing on "Kyoto Protocol: Assessing the Status of Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gasses"
  • September 28, 2005: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Hearing on the Role of Science in Environmental Policy Making
  • September 20, 2005: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Hearing on "Climate Change Science and Economics"
  • July 21, 2005: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Hearing on "Climate Change Science and Economics"
  • July 20, 2005: Senate Global Climate Change and Impacts Subcommittee, Hearing on Global Climate Change Policy and Budget Review
  • June 8, 2005: House Science Committee, Hearing on Business Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • January 26, 2005: Senate Environment and Public Works Clean Air and Climate Change Subcommittee, Hearing on the Clear Skies Initiative

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on Climate Change and the Media
Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Witnesses:
Dr. David Deming, College of Earth and Energy, University of Oklahoma
Dr. Daniel Schrag, Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University
Dr. R.M. Carter, Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University, Australia
Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Director, Science Studies Program, Professor, Department of History & Program in Science Studies, University of California - San Diego
Dan Gainor, The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow, Director, Business & Media Institute

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on climate change and the media on December 6, 2006. Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) said that the purpose of this hearing was to examine the "poorly conceived information" that the media presented to the public. He noted his belief that climate change was based on natural causes, not anthropogenic causes and quoted a number of his own opponents that have also chastised the media recently for using scare tactics to reach the public. Inhofe suggested that instead of basing investigations on hard science on climate change, the media has used predictions from computer models to exaggerate the possible changes in climate due to higher greenhouse gas emissions. "Hysteria sells," he said, "and people are out there doing it."

Following Inhofe's opening statement, Ranking Member James Jeffords (I-VT), who will be retiring from Congress this year, gave a long speech thanking his staff and fellow members of Congress. The auditorium gave the retiring senator a standing ovation in response to his expression of gratitude. Jeffords concluded his remarks by addressing the topic of the hearing. "I am sorry," he said, "that I was not able to do more to change the minds of the skeptics." He thanked Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), future chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee of the 110th Congress, for trying to change "the lot of humankind."

Senator Christopher Bond (D-MO) challenged the media to consider the human toll in addressing climate change. He said that "media hyping" that failed to investigate the economics of climate change could lead to poor policy decisions. In his estimation, capping carbon will raise costs on energy that will most directly affect poor, blue-collar Americans. These "every day people" will be forced to choose between "heat and eat." Senior citizens will need to make the choice between prescription drugs and air conditioning in the summer. Bond stated that capping carbon will cost the country $100 to $500 billion a year and will lead to a direct increase in prices and loss of jobs that would affect the middle of the country, while sparing states such as New York and California. Bond demanded that a complete study take place to determine which sections of the country will be impacted and who would be affected by policy decisions meant to prevent global warming. Money spent on climate change prevention would be better spent elsewhere, said the senator.

In her opening remarks, Senator Boxer presented a very different perspective than Bond. She first outlined two primary goals for the 110th Congress - to protect the health of families and the environment in the U.S. and to bring bipartisanship to the committee, so the committee can enact effective legislation that will help Americans. Boxer stated that the U.S. was the number one contributor of carbon dioxide emissions, of the 56 largest emitters, in the world, yet its efforts to combat the issue of global warming ranked 53 out of 56. The consensus view among scientists, said the senator, was that global warming is happening and human activities are the contributing factor with 11 National Academies throughout the world in agreement. Boxer stated that even representatives from BP, Walmart and JP Morgan Chase were advocating for actions to address climate change. A recent Pentagon report stated that global warming must be treated as a national security concern. She criticized the hearing, for merely debating about beliefs rather than taking action to solve a known problem.

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) stated that the media cannot and should not lead to a public consensus. He echoed Burn's concerns and stated that the money spent on global warming could be used for providing potable water to Africa and addressing other health concerns. He addressed Boxer personally, stating that the committee could learn a lot and achieve more if it listened. Voinovich also labeled environmental protection as a worldwide concern, noting that China will be the top emitter in the world by the year 2009 due to its dependence on coal and already is responsible for 20 percent of global mercury pollution.

The witness panel at the hearing featured four expert climate scientists and one representative from business and the media. Dr. David Deming from the College of Earth and Energy at the University of Oklahoma testified on his personal experience with the media. Deming stated that after he published a paper in Science magazine that reported a 1ºC increase in North America over the past 100 to 150 years, he had been invited to interview on National Public Radio. However, the interviewer stipulated that Deming state that climate change was a direct result of anthropogenic causes. When Deming told the reporter he would not do so, the interview did not take place.

Deming also stated that climate alarmists in the media have attempted to erase what is known as the Medieval Warm Period from 1000 A.D. until the 1300s in which temperatures increased significantly and resulted in health and prosperity. Deming stated that this period and others have illustrated that warmer temperatures led to benefits, while colder ice ages led to climatic instability and famine and that "no sound basis" existed for any predictions into the future.

Dr. Daniel Schrag of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University stated that the politicization of climate change was unfortunate because it is a scientific issue. During his testimony, he attempted to relay what he considered to be proven scientific facts. Schrag reported that there is "incontrovertible evidence" based on ice core records that CO2 levels are at the highest level that they have been for the past 650,000 years. Furthermore, indirect evidence from ocean studies has suggested that CO2 levels are the highest that they have been for the past 30 to 40 million years. He stated that these record levels are due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. While the environment provides a sink for CO2, absorbing the gas in oceans and plants, 60 percent of CO2 produced is still taken by the atmosphere and current emissions far exceed the Earth's ability to withstand a dramatic increase. Schrag illustrated that CO2 absorbs infrared with an analogy of our neighboring planet Venus which has a far greater level of CO2 in its atmosphere and a much higher temperature.

He predicted that a two to three-fold increase in CO2 in the atmosphere would result in a 3 to 4ºC increase in temperature. With levels of carbon dioxide greater than in all of human history, if not in 30 to 40 million years, Schrag called the current situation "an experiment on the planet." While it is unclear exactly what will occur in the future, Schrag stated that there is "no question it will be dramatic and significant." He likened preparing for climate change with insurance. An individual buys insurance not because he thinks his house will burn down, but because "he can't afford it if it did burn down." Climate change prevention and preparation will help the economy, national security and prepare the world for what it may not be able to withstand otherwise.

In response to Schrag's testimony that it was unfortunate that climate change has become so politicized, Inhofe asked why he had appeared at various media events, such as the opening of "The Day After Tomorrow" with political figures like Al Gore. Schrag responded by explaining that he takes any opportunity to explain the scientific facts. In regard to his appearance at the movie's opening, he stated that he felt the movie was "preposterous" and he used the opportunity to appear at the opening to explain what would have actually occurred given the circumstances of the movie.

Dr. R.M. Carter of the Marine Geology Laboratory at Cook University in Australia stated that three realities of climate change exist - the science reality based on supported evidence, the virtual reality based on computer models that "do not produce predictions, but imaginary realities and the press which is the greatest influence on the public. According to Carter, the science reality and the press are in complete contrast with one another because of a failure to translate the uncertainty of science. Carter stated that ice core evidence illustrates that a change in temperature precedes a change in CO2 levels by hundreds of years (a point later described as uncertain and synchronous on a geological timescale by Schrag). Therefore, according to Carter, stating that an increase in CO2 causes an increase in temperature "is the same as saying that lung cancer causes smoking." Carter stated that there has been no increase in global temperature for seven years. Drought could increase, sea levels might rise, but there is still complete uncertainty on the issue, according to the scientist. He argued that any policy in dealing with climate change must include adaptation, not prevention or mitigation.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes, director of the Science Studies Program and professor of the Department of History & Program in Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, expressed concern over the idea that anthropogenic global warming was often labeled a "fad" due to mainstream media's focus on the issue. She detailed the history of climate change science and summarized her work examining whether consensus exists on the scientific opinion that climate change is real and due to anthropogenic effects. Her published a paper in Science magazine examined 928 abstracts in a database with the key words "global climate change" and stated that 75 percent shared the opinion and none directly challenged it, leading her to conclude that this opinion is the scientific consensus.

The final witness, Dan Gainor, the Boone Pickens Free Market fellow and director of the Business & Media Institute, stated that no debate exists in the media and that the institution had long since given up neutrality. He noted a number of media sources, such as the NY Times and Time magazine that merely "scare" readers and called the 75 television shows in three months that Al Gore appeared on after an the release of "An Inconvenient Truth" a "media obsession." He closed his statement with a quote from the NY Times admitting its own problems - "cooling, warming we never get it right."

Boxer challenged Gainor, a former reporter for the Washington Times, for his assault on the press. "Attacking the press doesn't make the truth go away," she stated. Although Boxer noted that she has been "skewered" by the Washington Times on multiple occasions, she stated that "a free press is what makes this country strong." Boxer proclaimed, "I just hope that a message goes out from this hearing that we treasure a free press."

Testimony is available from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee website.

-RB

House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Energy
Hearing on "Department of Energy's Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs"
September 20, 2006

Witnesses
Stephen D. Eule, Director, Climate Change Technology Program, U.S. Department of Energy
Judith M. Greenwald, Director of innovation solutions, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Chris Mottershead - Adviser on energy and the environment, BP, Director, Center for Clean Air Policy, Member, Advisory Board, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Dr. Martin Hoffert, Emeritus professor, New York University (NYU)

On September 20, the Subcommittee on Energy of the House Science Committee met to discuss how the Department of Energy's Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) could be improved. Chairwoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) opened the hearing with a timeline for President Bush's initiatives on climate change. Bush passed two initiatives on June 11, 2001, the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) and the Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) in a commitment to stabilize greenhouse gases.

Biggert noted the success of CCSP, a $1.7 billion program in FY 2007, which completed its strategic plan by July 2003 and is currently being executed by the Department of Commerce. In contrast, Biggert said she was disheartened at the CCTP which has been allocated $2.9 billion in FY 2007. The CCTP released its draft technology plan four years and two months after the proposed deadline. The CCTP announced a series of research initiatives like the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, but has failed to detail how and when these initiatives will be implemented.

Biggert stated that she strongly supported these programs, "Technology investments are like an insurance policy against climate change." However, "In the absence of a rigorous, well-vetted, comprehensible plan, Congress is left to figure out how and to what degree each of these technologies - individually and collectively - will contribute to achieving our climate change goals."

Ranking Member Michael M. Honda (D-CA) agreed, "If we are going to achieve real reductions, it is critical to develop technology." He noted that we have no longer than a decade, "a brief window," in which we have to deal with climate change. Honda declared the need for state budge provisions and ambitious goals. He said that he was "worried that the draft does not provide the road map necessary for dealing with the problem."

Mr. Stephen Eule, director of CCTP at the Department of Energy, testified on the CCTP. He noted that in 2002, President Bush set a national goal to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity, specifically emissions per unit of economic output, of the U.S. economy by 18 percent by 2012. He stated that CCTP would help achieve this aim by targeting six objectives in its "strategic vision": reduction of emissions from energy use and infrastructure, reductions of emissions from energy supply, capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide, reduction of emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases, measure and monitor emissions, and the bolstering of basic science contributions.

Judith M. Greenwald, director of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, had her own list of goals. The Pew Center believes that three things must take place in order to reduce risks of global climate change: the implementation of a comprehensive national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining a sustained economy, international collaboration to establish a global network, and the amplification of climate change technologies on a global scale. She faulted the CCTP for a lack of a plan to deploy technologies. "Simply creating a supply of carbon reducing technology does not necessarily create a demand for it."

Chris Mottershead, adviser on energy and the environment of BP and director for the Center for Clean Air Policy, said that he believed the plan to be "comprehensive" and that it resonates with activities that BP supports. He did, however, note that the plan should be clearer about its overall goal. Mottershead stated that right now we should "focus on building business instead of building technology" and we should "price carbon" as Europe has done by requiring business to pay once they exceed a specified ceiling on carbon production.

Dr. Martin Hoffert, emeritus professor of NYU, said the supply of energy should aim for one-third carbonaceous coal, one-third nuclear energy, and one-third renewable energy, like solar and wind. He doubted that the world as a whole was prepared to make the changes that were needed, since currently, the direction of building would not result in such infrastructure. Eco-friendly energy plans like solar and wind call for a different kind of electrical grid system than the type which is being built. Furthermore, coal seems to be the predominant energy of new power plants in his estimation.

The question and answer period invoked some debate. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) remarked that anthropogenic climate change was "totally bologna." Though he affirmed, "But I do want my babies to breathe clean air." Rohrabacher said that if the CCTP program would lead to cleaner air, he might be more inclined to support the legislation.

Full Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY) responded, "Unfortunately, Mr. Rohrabacher is more wrong than he's right." He called for a change in the current thinking in the White House. "We have to stop thinking the old way, Republicans versus Democrats, scientists versus everyone else." Change must occur in a "non-confrontational, non-partisan way," and the DOE must help deploy technologies that will help "next year, not in ten years."

Biggert, agreed with Boehlert, "We want DOE to succeed - we need DOE to succeed. I think it would be terribly unfair to our children and grandchildren to leave the Earth in worse condition than the way in which we received it. That is why the government, the research community, and industry must work together to develop technology solutions that make environmental and economic sense. But for such a collaborative effort to succeed, we need a solid game plan."

For full testimony on this hearing, click here.

-RB

House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Research
Hearing on "International Polar Year: The Scientific Agenda and the Federal Role"

September 20, 2006

Witnesses
Dr. Arden Bement, Director, National Science Foundation
Dr. Robin Bell, Doherty Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
Dr. Donal T. Manahan, Professor of Biology, University of Southern California
Mr. Mark S. McCaffrey, Associate Scientist and Science Communications Expert, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder
Dr. Kelley K. Falkner, Professor of Chemical Oceanography, Oregon State University

The International Polar Year (IPY) will begin March 2007 and run through March 2009. The IPY will be an intense interdisciplinary, international campaign for field work and research in the polar regions. The President's fiscal year 2007 budget request allocated $62 million of the National Science Foundation's budget for IPY. Chairman Bob Inglis (R-SC) of the House Subcommittee on Research for the Science Committee held a hearing on September 20 to explore the agenda for the upcoming IPY, what role the US will play in the events and how the IPY will contribute to the nation.

Dr. Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), outlined a number of key goals for the IPY. He stated that the NSF planned to "discover new frontiers in polar science," further knowledge on how polar regions affect global processes, improve the permanent base of infrastructure and data available, increase international collaboration and cooperation, attract the public's attention on polar science, and spread excitement to a new generation of scientists and engineers through programs during the IPY.

Bement pointed to current concerns about global climate change and the present need to assess large-scale environmental change at the poles. Furthermore, the area offers an opportunity to learn how organisms adapt to extreme conditions which could result in groundbreaking discoveries in gene research. Bement noted that the collaboration of NSF, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), Arctic Observing Network (AON), and the US multi-agency program for the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) illustrates cooperation and support for this event on a national level. However, he acknowledged that without adequate appropriations, "the IPY plan may not result in actuality."

Dr. Robin E. Bell, Doherty Senior Research Scientist, told the Subcommittee that this one-hundred year old strategy of international collaborative research on a specific area is as relevant today as ever. "Integrated global knowledge" is an intrinsic part of dealing with present challenges. Dr. Bell demonstrated how Arctic sea ice melting affects worldwide currents with an ice cube between her fingers. The heat from her fingers melted the ice which pushed water down her arm. The melting poles directly affect ocean currents, changing climate worldwide.

Dr. Kelley K. Falkner, professor of chemical oceanography at Oregon State University pointed to air temperatures increasing at alarming rates, with a seven degree rise in the Arctic in the last half century. She pointed to the disappearance of an area of ice two times the size of Texas due to melting of polar ice caps since 1979, and permafrost thawing which has damaged infrastructure. Thawing may also be responsible for emitting more methane that previously predicted, accelerating melting rates further, Faulkner asserted. She is confident that IPY will benefit society by addressing the future climate of our planet.

The panel of witnesses stressed the need to connect science and the public. Dr. Bell said that we need to "put a human face on the IPY… inspire a spirit of discovery, to help acquire the next generation of leaders," said Dr. Bell.

Mark S. McCaffrey, associate scientist and science communications expert addressed what he called a "science education crisis." "The trenches of environmental education are scrambling for funds." Dr. Faulkner also emphasized the need for "fun in science and math" to encourage young students to get involved in science. The education and outreach portion of the IPY plans address these concerns.

Dr. Don T. Manahan, biology professor at University of Southern California, advocated "on-the-ice training." "Polar regions are critical to understanding our Earth. Accurate scientific information is needed," Dr. Manhattan said. "News is just getting out that the poles affect everyone's lives. Even my mother knows."

To date, the International Council for Science has approved 225 projects for the IPY and is reviewing 900, which will most likely be accepted as well. Federal research agencies have just begun to solicit research proposals for the IPY, but exact projects have not yet been determined.

For full testimony of this hearing, click here.

-RB

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Hearing on "Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments - Part II

July 27, 2006

Witnesses:
Panel I
Dr. Michael E. Mann, Associate Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Dr. John R. Christy, Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama, Huntsville, AL

Panel II
Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Jay Gulledge, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, VA
Mr. Stephen McIntyre, Toronto, Canada
Dr. Edward J. Wegman, Professor and Director, Center for Computational Statistics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Meeting for the second time in a week on July 27, 2006, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations continued its inquiry into the "hockey stick" global temperature reconstructions. The lead author of the seminal 1998 and 1999 "hockey stick" papers, Dr. Michael E. Mann, was present at the hearing to defend his research.

Lawmakers began by reiterating concerns that were expressed at last week's hearing. "We as policymakers need to understand the quality and reliability of the science on which we are urged to base policy that is both sweeping and costly," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) in his opening statement. House Democrats countered that Republicans are attempting to cloud the existing scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, and called the hearing an attempt to discredit a respected paleoclimatologist. Jay Inslee (D-WA) bemoaned the fact that "the U.S. is alone in its skepticism and inaction" in terms of global warming.

Both Barton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Edward Whitfield (R-KY) criticized the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which used Mann's "hockey stick" curve in its 2001 third assessment report. "Some very respected and authoritative sources testified last week that [the hockey stick] studies were flawed," stated Barton. "They couldn't support the findings which were used in the United Nations climate change assessment," he continued. Whitfield pointed out that "the hockey stick graphic and the underlying studies were influential in a prominent set of findings by the IPCC," and he challenged the level of confidence that the IPCC has placed in Mann's temperature reconstruction. The IPCC is set to release its fourth global climate report in February 2007.

During his testimony, Mann defended the paleoclimate work that he had begun as a graduate student in the mid-1990s. He explained that he had recognized the errors in his early statistical techniques and had subsequently refined his methods in later published studies. He also underscored the existence of numerous independent paleoclimate proxy records that corroborate his findings. "Numerous independent studies using different data and different statistical methods have re-affirmed…that late 20th century average Northern Hemisphere warmth appears to be unprecedented over at least the past 1000 years," Mann said.

This view was echoed by Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the president of the National Academy of Sciences. "Many additional lines of evidence demonstrate that climate is changing," said Cicerone, pointing to the melting of polar icecaps, ocean warming and acidification, and the fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years. "The [hockey stick study] is not the primary evidence for the widely accepted view that global warming is occurring, that human beings are responsible, at least in part, for this warming, and that the Earth's climate will continue to change during the next century," Cicerone concluded.

Dr. Edward Wegman, head of the ad hoc committee of statisticians that assessed Mann's methodologies, stated that "it is time to put the "hockey stick" controversy behind us and move on." However, he stressed that he was concerned about the interaction between climatologists and the broader scientific community. "There is relatively little interaction between the statistical community and the climate science/meteorology communities, although the latter use statistical techniques," Wegman said. He added that "statisticians ought to be funded partners engaged in [paleoclimate] research to ensure that the best quality science is being done."

In response to Wegman's concerns, Barton announced that he is preparing a request to the National Research Council that addresses some of the issues raised by Wegman and others. He said that he plans to ask the National Academy of Sciences Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences to examine "how to include a wider spectrum of scientific disciplines in climate change research," in order to improve the field of climatology and ensure that quality scientific work is being conducted.

To read the full text of witness testimony, click here.

-JCR

House Committee on Government Reform
Hearing on "Climate Change: Understanding the Degree of the Problem"
July 20, 2006

Witnesses:
Panel I
Mr. Jim Connaughton, Chairman, Counsel on Environmental Quality
Dr. Thomas R. Karl, Director, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC

Panel II
Dr. Judith Curry, Chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
Dr. John R. Christy, Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama, Huntsville, AL
Dr. Jay Gulledge, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, VA
Dr. Roger A. Pielke, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Panel III
Mr. Theodore Roosevelt IV, Chairman, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, VA
Mr. Andrew Ruben, Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Sustainability, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Mr. Marshall Herskovitz, Producer / Director / Writer, Television and Film

The House Government Reform Committee convened on July 20, 2006 to discuss climate change. As opposed to a similar hearing held the previous day by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, there was little debate regarding anthropogenic influences on global warming, and more of a focus on what is being done and what can be done in the near future to stem emissions of greenhouse gases. In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) explained that the purpose of the hearing was to "begin to understand the complex combination of technologies, incentives, restrictions and sacrifices that may be needed to truly tackle this problem."

Among the nine witnesses that testified before the committee, the lead witness was Jim Connaughton, the Chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). He was questioned extensively about the administration's stance on global warming science. Connaughton testified that the President has moved beyond the debate on global warming and is now focusing on the development of low-carbon technology. He also stated that the President is pushing to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and eventually reverse the growth, through voluntary programs like Climate VISION and Climate Leaders. The President aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012 - although that represents a 14 percent total increase from current levels of emissions.

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asserted that Connaughton's testimony is not consistent with recent public statements given by the President. In an interview with People magazine that was published on July 6, President Bush said, "I think there is a debate about whether [global warming] is caused by mankind or whether it's caused naturally, but it's a worthy debate. It's a debate, actually, that I'm in the process of solving by advancing new technologies." Van Hollen emphasized that President Bush's interview in People magazine was very widely read. "That kind of statement, read by millions of people, gives the impression we've not reached a consensus," he concluded. Connaughton countered that Bush's statement simply must have been taken out of context.

Due to these inconsistencies, the House Government Reform Committee announced that it will be launching an inquiry into reports that the White House edited scientific documents on global warming to emphasize uncertainty. In order to better understand the administration's federal climate policy, Chairman Davis and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) have requested assorted White House documents and communications related to the issue of global warming. In their letter to Connaughton, Davis and Waxman ask for materials produced by former CEQ chief of staff Philip Cooney - who resigned in June 2005 after news reports that he edited federal climate change documents. They also request all climate change-related communications between CEQ and other federal agencies, and any communications related to efforts by CEQ to "manage or influence statements made by government scientists."

To read the full text of witness testimony, click here.

-JCR

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Hearing on "Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments - Part I

July 19, 2006

Witnesses:
Panel I
Dr. Edward J. Wegman, Professor and Director, Center for Computational Statistics, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Dr. Gerald R. North, Distinguished Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Panel II
Dr. Thomas R. Karl, Director, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC
Dr. Thomas J. Crowley, Nicholas Professor of Earth System Science, Duke University, Durham, NC
Dr. Hans von Storch, Director of Institute for Coastal Research, University of Hamburg, Germany
Mr. Stephen McIntyre, Toronto, Canada

On July 19, 2006 the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on questions surrounding the "hockey stick" paleoclimate studies. The hearing comes about a year after the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Edward Whitfield (R-KY) launched an investigation into the statistical methodology of the 1998 and 1999 "hockey stick" temperature reconstructions and the scientific credibility of the papers' authors, Drs. Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes. The "hockey stick" curve is a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction based primarily on historical records and data from tree rings, ice cores and corals. The name of the curve derives from the sharp increases in global average temperature in the 20th century.

Subcommittee Republicans denied that the hearing was an attempt to discredit the work of the three paleoclimatologists, and explained that research with such major policy and economic implications should be subject to intense scrutiny. "This issue is so important, and will affect so many people that we need to better understand the Mann-Bradley-Hughes report," said Whitfield in his opening statement.

In contrast, Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) compared the hearing to the tobacco industry's tactics of "sowing doubt and spreading disinformation" regarding the effects of tobacco on human health. "We need to deal with the global challenge instead of debating the statistics in one study, especially when most of the scientific community is in agreement about global warming," said Inslee. Waxman added that this was only the second time in twelve years that the subcommittee had held a hearing on climate change, and hoped that it might mark the beginning of a series of hearings that would construct policy to address the issue of global warming.

Independent reviews of the principle component analysis methodology used in the "hockey stick" studies were completed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and an ad hoc committee of statisticians led by Dr. Edward Wegman, a professor of computational statistics at George Mason University. Both groups found flaws in Mann et al.'s statistical treatment of the temperature reconstruction data.

Dr. Gerald North, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University and Chair of the NAS Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions, explained that despite statistical flaws in the two papers, the conclusion that the 20th century has shown unprecedented global warming is nevertheless largely correct. The NAS committee also determined that there was substantial uncertainty associated with the pre-1600 temperature proxies and that little confidence could be placed in Mann et al.'s conclusion that the 1990s were the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the past thousand years. However, North emphasized that these uncertainties "should not undermine the fact that climate is warming drastically."

In contrast, Wegman testified that the papers' conclusions cannot be supported. His independent committee found that the statistical methods preferentially created a "hockey stick" shape. Wegman questioned the utility of the peer review process and suggested that social networking within the relatively small paleoclimatology community led to bias in the review process. He recommended that all paleoclimate studies be evaluated by mainstream statisticians, in order to ensure that the research is rigorously scrutinized and that accurate methodologies are employed.

The six hour-long hearing also included some Republican-led debate about whether man-made pollution is the major cause of global climate change or if the present warming is just part of a natural cycle. Barton voiced concern about the issue being better understood before the U.S. stops using coal-fired energy and reduces carbon dioxide in auto emissions. "Before we make massive public policy changes that affect every American in this country, we must be able to say with certainty that the facts are the facts," he said. In response, North testified that "man-made climate change is quite real," and that climate models only match the observed data when anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are factored in. Inslee lamented the fact that, even though there is overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are responsible for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the purpose of the hearing appeared to be to "create doubt about moving ahead with a clean energy future."

To read the full text of witness testimony, click here.
To read a summary of the NAS report, click here.

-JCR

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Global Climate Change
Hearing on "Projected and Past Effects of Climate Change: A Focus on Marine and Terrestrial Systems"

April 26, 2006

Witnesses:
Panel I
Dr. Steve Murawski, Director of Scientific Programs and Chief Science Advisor for the National Marine Fisheries Service and Ecosystem Goal Team Lead, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Director of the Earth Surface Dynamics Program, U.S. Geological Survey

Panel II
Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Director, International Arctic Research Center
Dr. Robert Corell, Senior Policy Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Dr. Paul Reiter, Professor, Institut Pasteur

The Global Climate Change Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on April 26 to investigate the projected and past effects of climate change on marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Despite an opening statement from Subcommittee Chair David Vitter (R-LA) that "for once, we are not here to argue about the causes of observed warming trends," Vitter, Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) spent much of the hearing debating the human role in global climate change.

Nonetheless, the senators agreed that current changes in climate are having adverse effects on marine and terrestrial ecosystems. "I don't think there's much doubt that changes are taking place," Stevens said, detailing increases in permafrost melt rate and coastal erosion in Alaska. Lautenberg agreed, adding that "We are all threatened by climate changes."

Witnesses detailed a number of specific threats ecosystems are facing due to changing climate. Dr. Steve Murawski, Director of Scientific Programs and Chief Science Advisor for the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told senators marine organisms are being challenged by changes in sea level, acidity, and temperature. In particular, he said, the oceans are absorbing excess carbon dioxide, which increases seawater acidity and decreases the amount of calcium carbonate available to organisms. In turn, photosynthetic plankton, which build their skeletons from calcium carbonate, are decreasing in number. "These plankton are the basis of marine ecosystems," Murawski said. "Changes in their distribution will have cascading effects."

Dr. Robert Corell, a senior policy fellow at the American Meteorological Society, added that climate change is affecting terrestrial organisms as well. He cited increased incidences of droughts, fires, and floods, all scenarios which impact ecosystems and human communities. In addition, he noted that changes in temperature, ice cover, and precipitation are having "a profound effect" on the habitats, food sources, and migration patterns of Arctic wildlife.

Testimony from remaining witnesses focused on the causes of change and the accuracy of climate prediction rather than the impact of change on the ecosystems. Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Director of the Earth Surface Dynamics Program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) told senators that observed warming trends are consistent with natural interglacial periods. "The current conditions of temperature fit with what we see of natural cycles of temperature over the last 1,000 years," he said. However, he called current concentrations of carbon dioxide "unprecedented."

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Director of the International Arctic Research Center attacked the accuracy of the climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying they cannot reproduce continental warming over the Arctic. He also noted that other factors, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and increasing solar output, could contribute to the observed rise in temperature.

The witness testimony seemed to have little effect on each senator's view of whether humans are affecting climate change. While Stevens and Vitter asked witnesses to repeat evidence that natural phenomena could be causing the observed changes, Lautenberg implied that human-induced emissions were causing the observed changes and used the question period to call for congressional action. "We have an obligation to worry about" the future, Lautenberg said. Corell agreed, citing studies that even if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced immediately, it could take up to 200 years for temperatures to stabilize. "The science clearly indicates it's time for action," he said.

For a video of the hearing, the full text of witness testimony, and Senator Vitter's opening statement, click here.

-JAF

Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Hearing on U.S.-International Climate Change Approach: A Clean Technology Solution

November 14, 2005

Witnesses
Panel I
The Honorable Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, Department of State
The Honorable David Garman, Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment, Department of Energy
The Honorable James L. Connaughton, Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality

Panel II
The Honorable Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Three months after President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened a hearing to begin oversight on the administration's approach to addressing global climate change. Earlier this year, the Senate approved a Hagel-sponsored amendment to the energy bill that directed the president to integrate federal climate change activities and develop a plan to deploy clean energy technologies in developing countries. The hearing focused on the international context of these strategies, particularly the status of U.S.-led international partnerships on climate change. Only Senator Hagel and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) were present for the testimony, while Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), the committee's ranking democrat, submitted a statement (pdf) in absentia.

Administration officials testified that the U.S. is well on its way to meet the requirements set forth in the energy bill. James Connaughton, the president's top Environmental Advisor, explained that over the past four years of the Bush presidency, the nation has managed to hold greenhouse gas emissions constant despite strong economic growth, setting a trajectory that would allow the nation to meet President Bush's national goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012. The use of greenhouse gas intensity, the change in greenhouse gas emissions relative to economic growth, is an important aspect of the Bush administration's climate change approach, preferred over absolute or per capita emissions indicators because it sends a signal about energy efficiency and productivity.

Each administration official praised Hagel's energy-bill provisions for keeping with the president's voluntary, technology-based approach, which is part of a broader development agenda to address climate change issues along with poverty, energy security, and pollution reduction. In the administration's view, regulatory approaches such as the Kyoto Protocol, that place caps on greenhouse gas production, would constrain economic growth and cement third-world poverty.

Secretary Paul Dobrianski from the Department of State testified that State Department officials have begun considering a range of programs that would help open up new markets in developing nations for advanced technologies. Some programs would target the private sector while others would provide financial assistance to eligible countries or launch an international exchange of technological expertise. The single most important vehicle for implementing the administration's climate change goals, however, will be the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate. Announced in July, 2005, this partnership would focus on building local capacity for technology development, providing investment opportunities, and removing market barriers. The six countries so far involved--the United States, Australia, China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea--collectively represent roughly 50% of the world's economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the energy bill climate change title, the State Department is supposed to submit a report to congress by February on the top 25 greenhouse gas-emitting countries along with other assessments that would inform a broader technology exchange strategy. Senator Hagel tried to draw out some of this information during the hearing, but witnesses declined to identify specific countries. Dobrianski and Connaughton did say that the most likely candidates for a U.S.-led climate change program are large emitters, or countries in need of growth, with a strong political foundation and "dynamic economies." When asked what key U.S. technologies would be the first to be adopted, witnesses listed nuclear, advanced coal and wind. However, when Hagel asked Secretary Garman to inventory the most applicable technological investments currently funded at U.S. national labs, Garman listed thin-film photovoltaics and the president's hydrogen fuel cell initiative, technologies with market potential in the U.S. and other industrialized countries.

Senator Alexander voiced particular concern that the U.S. would not be able to maintain its competitive edge in providing innovative technologies as new markets for clean energy open up overseas. As an example, he asked why Shell Oil Company has agreed to work with Australia to bring an integrated coal gasification and carbon sequestration plant online by 2010, whereas the U.S. is on track to bring carbon sequestration technology to market by 2015. David Garman, Undersecretary for Energy, Science and the Environment at the Department of Energy said "I don't know why Shell is going to Australia," but he acknowledged that in the U.S., "there is basic science that we still need to do."

Other witnesses, including Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, blamed the apparent lag in investment interest on the uncertainty of the U.S. policy climate. While Claussen fully supported the administration's flexible, development-based approach, she said that current federal policies do not go far enough because they lack a greater sense of urgency. She asserted that the U.S. must develop a more definitive policy framework, including regulatory approaches, that would provide a "push" as well as a "pull" for developing nations to adopt clean energy policies of their own. She also suggested that U.S. approaches incorporate absolute greenhouse gas emissions indicators in addition to measureing "intensity."

Claussen added that "the most powerful step the Senate could take to reestablish U.S. leadership would be to revisit and update the sense of the Senate on the future of the international climate effort." In 1997, the Senate unanimously passed Resolution 98 to reject the Kyoto Protocol, effectively closing off the U.S. to meaningful international negotiations on climate change. Claussen called on the Foreign Relations Committee to consider and report to the full Senate a new statement that provides the administration with a strong and balanced policy framework to ensure that the U.S. is back at the table and to define the terms for its engagment.

For a full text of the witnesses' statements, click here.

-KCA

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
H
earing on "Kyoto Protocol: Assessing the Status of Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gasses"
October 5, 2005

Witnesses
Panel I
Dr. Harlan L. Watson, United States Senior Climate Negotiator and Special Representative

Panel II
Lord Nigel Lawson, United Kingdom House of Lords
Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, American Council for Capital Formation
Dr. Michael Grubb, Chief Economist, The Carbon Trust

On October 6, 2005 the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to examine whether Kyoto Protocol signatories have made any progress in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. In his opening statements, Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) made his opinions on the matter very clear by saying, "We should understand whether their efforts are working or not, and they're not. The Kyoto Protocol is a failure." Committee members from both sides of the aisle expressed little support for the protocol. Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) said the Kyoto Protocol was like trying to put a car into reverse while driving down a highway. Instead, "we need to slow the car down, stop the car, and then put the car in reverse," he said. Several Republicans claimed that recent comments made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair showed a waning confidence among the treaty's most avid proponents. Blair, who spoke at the Clinton Foundation's global summit last month (full transcript), said that political and economic conditions around the world are such that, realistically, "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem," and that international cooperation should focus on encouraging new technologies.

Dr. Harlan Watson, the U.S. Senior Climate Negotiator, was first to testify. Dr. Watson characterized the Bush Administration's efforts to address climate change as "robust and flexible." President Bush has committed to a goal of reducing the United States' greenhouse gas intensity, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), to 18% of its current level by 2012. Watson said this would be achieved through financial incentives for businesses that reduce emissions. Watson also pointed out that joining the Kyoto Protocol would have cost the U.S. economy "up to 400 billion dollars and 4.9 million jobs."

Many of the questions for Watson focused on Europe's experience with the Kyoto Protocol. Chairman Inhofe asked about the status of the European Union's goals to reduce emissions, and Watson said that according to the EU environment ministry only two nations, Sweden and the United Kingdom, are currently on track to meet Kyoto targets. Watson also claimed that four countries- Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Spain- would almost certainly not meet their targets, even if they traded with other countries for emission credits. Senator Barack Obama (D- IL) asked how much U.S. greenhouse gas intensity would decrease by 2012 under a "business as normal scenario" where the government did nothing. Watson replied that intensity would decrease by 14%, prompting Obama to question whether the administration's policies were really making a significant impact.

The second panel of witnesses offered a variety of perspectives on the usefulness of the Kyoto Protocol in addressing climate change. Lord Nigel Lawson, who serves on the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, made the point that adapting to climate change is much more cost-effective than the mitigation efforts mandated by the Kyoto Protocol. Lawson also had harsh words for the United Nations' International Programme on Climate Change (IPCC), saying "The more you look at the operations of the IPCC, the more doubts you will have about its objectivity and rigor." Dr. Margo Thorning from the American Council for Capital Formation, claimed that complying with Kyoto will have drastic effects on European GDP and employment, and that emission trading systems will not work in the long term. Dr. Michael Grubb from the Carbon Trust, however, pointed out that it is not logically consistent to say that the Kyoto Protocol is harming Europe's economy while Europe is not meeting its targets. He suggested that the most reasonable economic models available show that complying with the treaty incurs only a modest cost.

Disagreements between Grubb and Thorning were brought to the fore during questioning. Responding to a question from Senator Carper, Grubb dismissed Thorning's analysis of the treaty's economic impact, saying "I simply don't recognize the numbers put forward here, they don't correlate with what has been put forward in any serious academic literature." Thorning, however, maintained her position that efforts by governments to limit greenhouse gas emissions would cause an economic disaster. When asked by Ranking Member Jim Jeffords (I-VT) about a plan by Northeast states to cap emissions, Thorning said that it would mean slower economic growth and increased unemployment for those states, while the "efforts would mean almost nothing in terms of reducing global emissions."

Click here for more information regarding the hearing and testimony.

-PMD

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
H
earing on the Role of Science in Environmental Policymaking
September 28, 2005

Witnesses:
Michael Crichton, fiction author and physician
Richard Benedick, Founder, National Council for Science and the Environment
William Gray, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Colorado State University
Donald Roberts, Professor of Tropical Public Health Issues, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
David Sandalow, Director on Energy and the Environment, The Brookings Institution

On Wednesday, September 28, 2005, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met to discuss the role of science in environmental policy making. In his opening statements Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) made a point of praising author Michael Crichton, whose novel State of Fear casts doubt on climate science that supports human caused global warming. "I would like to make State of Fear required reading for this committee," said Inhofe. The Chairman also claimed that recent statements about the link between global warming and increased hurricane intensity were "totally absurd".

Democratic committee members, however, were nonplussed by Crichton's appearance. "The committee needs science fact, not science fiction," said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) pointed out that Crichton's work has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. Clinton also commented that the Bush administration had ignored the opinions of a majority of scientists on climate change and had failed to provide adequate funding for basic research. Republican senators used their opening statements to point out how poor science had led to problematic decision making in the past. "We should refrain from taking action unless the harm it prevents, and its efficacy, are understood well enough to avoid adverse outcomes," said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), referring to regulations that had impacted industries in her state.

In his testimony, Crichton focused on the importance of independent verification of scientific results, something he believes is lacking in climate change research. Crichton focused in particular on the "hockey stick graph" showing rising temperatures over the past thousand years. This graph produced by Dr. Michael Mann and others was used in the United Nations' International Programme on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on global warming, but the methodology used to produce it has been questioned by other scholars. "The IPCC doesn't do independent verification," said Crichton. Another witness, Colorado State University Professor William Gray, also cast doubt on the scientific consensus that humans were causing global warming. "The problem is that the people on these scientific boards don't know much about how the ocean and atmosphere tick," he said.

Other witnesses, however, spoke in support of climate change science. Richard Benedick, from the National Council on Science and the Environment, spoke primarily about his experience negotiating the Montreal Protocol to control ozone depleting gases, but his point was that policymakers cannot wait for absolute scientific certainty before acting on issues like global warming. David Sandalow of the Brookings Institution focused his testimony on Hurricane Katrina, urging the senators to initiate a scientific agenda in response to the disaster that included exploring the causes of extreme weather and responsibly addressing global warming.

Donald Roberts, a faculty member at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, testified that a U.S. ban on DDT was causing malaria rates to rise across the globe. Roberts claimed that this ban is political and not based on sound science, but his comments seemed out of place in a hearing dominated by the issue of global warming.

Many of the questions directed to the panel focused on the reliability of statements by various organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences and the IPCC, claiming that human-caused global warming is in fact occurring. In response to a question from Chairman Inhofe about why scientists have ignored past warming events, Crichton said, "Sometimes I think there is more constraint on what an American tabloid will publish than there is on the IPCC." Both Crichton and Gray also cautioned that pronouncements by the National Academy of Sciences and other organizations could be influenced by politics. Sandalow and Benedick disagreed, making the point that a scientific body presenting a consensus position is much more reliable than the views of individual scientists. "It is beyond controversy that the National Academy of Sciences is well respected," said Sandalow.

Click here for more information regarding the hearing and testimony.

-PMD

 

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
H
earing on "Climate Change Science and Economics."
September 20, 2005

Witnesses:
Howard Gruenspecht, Deputy Administrator, Energy Information Association
Anne Smith, Vice-President, CRA International
Jason Grumet, Executive Director, National Comission on Energy Policy
Richard Morgenstern, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

On Tuesday, September 20, 2005, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the economic impacts of various proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This hearing was a continuation of a previous hearing held on July 21st that had been cut short due to time constraints. The July hearing had focused on the science of climate change, while the hearing on Tuesday focused on the economic effects of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In his opening statements, Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) recognized that the United States needed to heed warnings about climate change and that this hearing would focus on the specifics of plans for economically feasible activities that would begin to address this issue. "Not to be trite," said Domenici, "but the devil is in the details."

In their opening statements most committee members emphasized Chairman Domenici's wish to focus on policy details rather than get wrapped up in broader debates over climate change. Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman reminded the committee that inaction on climate change would bring its own costs. "We can't ignore the fact that major changes to our economy are expected," he said. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) brought up a recent study in Science that indicated a connection between global warming and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones. Chairman Domenici dismissed this reference, however, saying that there are at least two recent studies that show there to be no connection between warming and hurricanes. "It's nuts to say that Katrina is related to global warming," he said.

The first witness, Howard Gruenspecht from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), detailed the results of an independent study analyzing the economic impacts of recommendations offered by the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP). The recommendations were published in a December, 2004 report entitled "Ending the Energy Stalemate: A Bipartisan Strategy to Meet America's Energy Challenges." According to the EIA the NCEP plan, which includes a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions and increased fuel economy standards, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 to 11% less than projected levels under current policies. The plan, however, would still result in a significant increase from current emissions. Following the NCEP proposal would lower real gross domestic product (GDP) in 2025 by 0.4%.

Anne Smith, of CRA International, a business consulting firm, further argued that the cap-and-trade program recommended by NCEP would not achieve the development of new technologies needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the NCEP proposal contains a safety valve measure that would prevent the price per ton of carbon from going above a critical threshold. According to Smith this safety valve would prevent the price of carbon from ever reaching levels that would cause the private sector to invest in new technologies. Instead, she suggested, the government should focus on investing in research and development, and on reducing trade barriers that prevent new technologies from reaching developing countries. NCEP Executive Director Jason Grumet, however, testified that the commission's recommendations did include a large increase in R&D spending. When combined with the cap-and-trade program, which would create a market signal encouraging private R&D, said Grumet, the financial burden of developing technology would be evenly divided between the public and private sector.

Richard Morgenstern from Resources for the Future made the point that the NCEP recommendations and other recent plans were not designed to reduce overall emissions, as the Kyoto Protocol does, but instead to slow the rate of emission increases while promoting new technology. "We are talking about capturing the low hanging fruit of cheap emissions reductions while avoiding economic damage," he said. Morgenstern also said that the government should invest in carbon sequestration as well as next generation energy production technology.

Questions from the committee members focused on a variety of issues related to the NCEP recommendations and other proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) pointed out that the recent energy bill included incentives for climate change R&D and asked whether that legislation was sufficient to promote new technologies. The panel agreed that while the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was a step in the right direction, much more needed to be done in this area. "It's a start," said Anne Smith, "but it does not create a vision or mission for an R&D endpoint, let alone say how much money should be spent." Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) questioned whether the NCEP plan, which anticipates future steps to further reduce emissions, would create business uncertainty and cause industries to invest overseas. Grumet responded by saying, "Business certainty is never an option. Setting a path forward will create more certainty than doing nothing on this issue."

Click here for more information regarding the hearing and testimony.

-PMD

 

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
H
earing on "Climate Change Science and Economics."
July 21, 2005

Witnesses
Dr. Ralph Cicerone, president, National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Mario Molina, professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Jim Hurrell, global dynamics scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Sir John Houghton

On July 21, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a full committee hearing on "Climate Change Science and Economics." The hearing had to be cut short due to a 2-hour time limit rule, leaving no time for a panel of economists to testify. During the first panel, members of the scientific community urged the committee to realize that global warming is occurring beyond natural variations and that political leadership is crucial in addressing the issue.

The president of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Ralph Cicerone, opened his testimony by stating that "the earth is warming," and that "we are way outside the range of natural variability." The other panelists agreed, and Dr. Jim Hurrell from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) furthered Cicerone's point by saying, "the globe is warming at an alarming rate, and any claims to the contrary are not credible."

In his testimony, Cicerone confronted the debate regarding whether change in the sun's brightness is a major contributor to significant climate change, reporting that according to recent analysis, a long-term warming trend cannot be attributed to the sun's brightness. Cicerone commented that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher today than they were over 400,000 years ago and levels are continuing to rise. Cicerone claimed that nearly all climate scientists attribute the recent rise in concentrations to the burning of fossil fuels by humans. However, Cicerone admitted that although "the degree of confidence in this conclusion is higher today than it was 10, or even 5 years ago,…uncertainties remain."

Cicerone's comment on scientific uncertainty sparked debate from committee chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), who commented that we are in need of more precise science. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) agreed that it is imperative for policymakers to have science with absolute certainty, explaining that "it is very important for us to insist that you get it right." Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Craig took issue with the amount of tax-payer funds going into climate research. "We are spending more than the rest of the world put together," declared Craig. Alexander is strongly opposed to investing money into solar and wind energy to combat global warming because these technologies occupy too great a geographic footprint to provide substantial relief from conventional energy sources.

Chiming into the debate, Dr. Mario Molina, a 1995 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and professor at MIT, offered that, "the climate system is very complicated and science does not have all the answers: there are uncertainties in predicting when and to what extent the climate will change as a consequence of a given course of human activities." Molina further commented that the role of scientists is to provide policymakers with science that will allow for appropriate decisions to be made. Sir Jim Houghton urged the committee to take action and show the world some leadership on the issues.

Domenici explained that this was the first in a series of hearings that he plans to hold on the subject of climate change policy. The remaining witnesses for the hearing will be testifying at the next hearing, on a date and time to be determined.

Click here for more information regarding the hearing and testimony.

-AMS

Senate Commerce Committee Global Climate Change and Impacts Subcommittee
Hearing on Global Climate Change Policy and Budget Review

July 20, 2005

Witnesses
The Honorable James Richard Mahoney, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, U.S. Department of Commerce
Mr. David W. Conover, Director, U.S. Climate Change Technology Program, U.S. Department of Energy
Mr. Daniel Reifsnyder, Director, Office of Global Climate Change, U.S. Department of State
Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences

On July 20, 2005, the Senate Commerce Committee Global Climate Change and Impacts Subcommittee held its first hearing to discuss the United States climate change policy and to review the $5 billion budget request for climate-related science and technology. Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) expressed in his opening statements that his priority of this hearing would be to determine how tax dollars are being spent. Ranking Member Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) told the witnesses, "I am concerned that we're not treating [global climate change] with the urgency that it deserves." Lautenberg also expressed concerned that global climate change is contributing to the rising sea level on the coast of his home state of New Jersey. Pointing out that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has yet to submit a plan of action, Lautenberg said, "To those that say it will cost too much, I say, what is the cost of doing nothing?" Members of the subcommittee discussed with witnesses a number of areas where the issue of climate change has recently surfaced, including the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland on July 5-8, 2005, the alleged editing of reports by a senior white house aide, and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton's (R-TX) probe into climate change science and federal review.

Dr. James Mahoney announced his retirement from the position of Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere for the U.S. Department of Commerce, assuring the members that he would remain active in his position until a replacement had been found. In his testimony, Dr. Mahoney praised the White House for exceeding agency budget requests for all federal climate change research programs by almost $200 million.

Mr. David W. Conover, director of the U.S. Climate Change Technology Program from the Department of Energy (DOE), also praised the President for his commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The goal of UNFCCC is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous interference with the climate system." Mr. Conover highlighted how the administration is addressing climate change at DOE, including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) investment, the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative launched in 2002, carbon sequestration research, FutureGen, nuclear fission development, and fusion research.

Mr. Daniel Reifsnyder, director of the Office of Global Climate Change in the Department of State, outlined the results of climate change negotiations at the recent G8 Summit. According to Mr. Reifsnyder, the leaders will meet again on November 1, 2005 in London to further discuss "A Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development." The objectives of the second conference are "to address the strategic challenge of transforming our energy systems to create a more secure and sustainable future, monitor implementation of the commitments made in the Gleneagles Plan of Action and explore how to build on this progress, and to share best practice between participating governments."

Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, reaffirmed the Academy's stance that scientific evidence shows that "the earth is warming." A month before the G8 Summit, the Joint Science Academies from all the G8 countries plus Brazil, India and China released a statement called "Global Response to Climate Change," which pointed out strong scientific evidence in favor of anthropogenic climate change and called on the G8 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Cicerone tesified that he was "a little frustrated" with how the statement was recieved, explaining that the statment was intended to inform and influence discussions at the G8 summit, but was mischaracterized as a lobbying effort and thus neglected in the talks. "[We] were driven by hope and belief that it would aid decision making," he said, later adding that the Academy still "has some work to do."

Senator Vitter asked Dr. Cicerone about his response to the letters sent by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) requesting a range of information from three scientists who developed the "hockey stick" theory of global warming, and the two major institutions responsible for reviewing such research, the National Science Foundation and the Interagency Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Cicerone said that he had written a response letter to Mr. Barton in which he expressed concern that a congressional investigation "might not be the best way to solve a scientific issue." While he was careful to say that he would not challenge the oversight of Congress, Cicerone suggested that congressional reviews of scientific work should be conducted through an independent expert panel convened under the National Academy of Sciences.

Senator Vitter also asked Dr. Mahoney about the status of NOAA's report on climate change. Mahoney reported that NOAA would attempt to release the report by the end of 2007. Although the report was supposed to be published by 2004 under the Global Change Research Act of 1990, Dr. Mahoney says that NOAA is now asking for an extension due to delays in the early stages of the project.

Another issue on the minds of Senator Lautenberg and other subcommittee members regarded the recent allegations against Philip A. Cooney, a former White House official who was accused of editing scientific climate change draft reports between 2002 and 2003. The reports were originally issued by the U.S. government's Climate Change Science Program, an white house office that integrates climate research from thirteen federal agencies. As the director of the program, Dr. Mahoney defended Cooney, explaining that the reports were strategic plans, not research papers, and therefore Cooney could make notes of the drafts without having any scientific background. Mahoney testified that it was his own responsibility to accept or reject comments added to the draft and that he "endorses" all of the changes that Cooney made.

-ATS

House Science Committee
Hearing on Business Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
June 8, 2005

Witnesses
Mr. James E. Rogers, Chairman, CEO, and President, Cinergy Corp.
Dr. Mack McFarland, Global Environmental Manager, DuPont Fluoroproducts
Mr. Ron Meissen, Senior Director, Engineering, Environment, Health & Safety, Baxter International Inc.
Dr. Robert Hobbs, Director of Operations, United Technologies Research Center, United Technologies Corporation (UTC)

On June 8, 2005, the House Science Committee heard testimony from four business executives on the actions their companies are taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The executives focused on the reasons their companies have voluntarily chosen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the actions Congress could take to help them better address the technological, environmental, and economic challenges they face in the future.

James Rogers, CEO of the Cincinnati electric utility Cinergy Corp., spoke of certain "signposts" that have led his company to choose "not to ignore the issue of greenhouse gases but to address it in a positive manner." A major signpost for Rogers are the continued actions of many countries and associations to address greenhouse gas emissions, including the regulations that have been adopted in several states around the U.S., the increasing support in the U.S. Congress for climate legislation, and the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by some nations. Rogers also mentioned increased shareholder demands as influencing Cinergy's decision to reduce greenhouse emissions to 5% below their 2000 levels by 2012.

Dr. Mack McFarland, Global Environmental Manager of DuPont Fluoroproducts, spoke of DuPont's greenhouse gas reductions as a logical next step in their decision to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the late 1980's in order to combat ozone depletion. McFarland testified that DuPont has already reduced emissions by over 72% of 1990 levels on a carbon-equivalent basis, primarily by using new technologies to reduce nitrous oxide from nylon production and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from fluorochemical production. He also noted that DuPont has kept its energy use constant, even as production has increased over 30%. McFarland stated that increased energy efficiency "has resulted in a reduction of 420 million cumulative metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from our global operations versus business as usual" and that as a result the company has "saved over $2 billion dollars on energy costs since 1991".

Ron Meissen, from the global healthcare company Baxter International, and Dr. Robert Hobbs, from the aerospace and commercial building products company United Technologies Corporation (UTC), also testified about the dual-benefits of greater efficiency and reduced emissions. "The focus of our greenhouse gas management strategy is energy conservation," Baxter stated, mentioning the "activities and initiatives that improve the energy efficiency of our facilities and reduce our energy costs." Hobbs spoke of UTC's commitment to environmental responsibility and the development of energy efficient products which UTC has led.

All four executives emphasized that they believe their steps to reduce emissions would increase profitability. However, the executives emphasized that some of their actions are based on expectations of future greenhouse gas regulations and growth in demand for new, green products. Given the uncertainty of these expectations, Rogers stated that he would prefer a national standard to the "hardship" of a patchwork of state regulations, in response to a question from Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL). Rogers also expressed concern about a trade dispute with Europe if U.S. companies are seen as subsidized because their greenhouse gas emissions are not regulated.

In response to a question by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), McFarland agreed that uncertainty in future greenhouse gas policy is a problem and that it will "act as a disincentive to other entities to step up with bold voluntary actions." McFarland expressed concern that the actions to reduce emissions by companies like his will go uncredited under future emissions caps, to which Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) responded, "You should not be penalized for early action and that's our objective." Chairman Boehlert voiced his support of the efforts the four men were leading at their companies and said that he was glad to be at a climate change hearing filled with "good news".

Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety
Hearing about the Multi-Pollutant Legislation
January 26, 2005

Witnesses
Donald Plusquellic, mayor and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Akron, Ohio
John Paul, supervisor, Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, Dayton, Ohio
Beverly Gard, chair, Energy and Environment Affairs Committee, Indiana State Senate
Ronald Harper, chief executive officer, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D.
Conrad Schneider, advocacy director, Clean Air Task Force
Fred Parady, environmental services manager, OCI Wyoming L.P. on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers

On January 26th, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety held the first hearing on multi-pollutant legislation in the 109th Congress. Opening statements and testimony diverged little from the on-going debate over the Clear Skies bill, and both sides remain in a stalemate over several issues, notably the inclusion of a CO2 provision and the issue of whether the new plan would undercut Clean Air Act standards.

Witnesses from the utility and manufacturing industries, US Conference of Mayors and the Indiana State Senate joined EPW Committee Republicans in endorsing a cap-and-trade approach as the option that would increase "certainty" by imposing tough national regulations without mandating the installation of expensive new equipment in every plant. They contended that added costs under stricter regulations would cause the replacement of coal by natural gas, drive up gas prices, and jeopardize industry jobs.

Opponents of Clear Skies persisted that, while national multi-pollutant legislation is needed, it must impose stricter standards, retain New Source Review (NSR) laws, and not undermine more stringent regional or local rules. John Paul from the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency testified that both proposals by Senator Carper and Senator Jeffords would come closer to achieving appropriate emissions levels.

All opponents questioned the wisdom and sense of disregarding CO2 in a major, comprehensive emissions bill. Proponents asserted that CO2 is "not a pollutant" and should be addressed in other legislation. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) also pledged that any proposals to add CO2 mandates are "unworkable" and would kill any legislation before it reached the Senate floor.

Sources: Hearing testimony, American Meteorological Society, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Environment & Energy Daily, Reuters, Albuquerque Tribune.

Contributed by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program Staff; Katie Ackerly, 2005 AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Intern, John Vehrmylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Amanda Schneck, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Anne Smart, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern, Jenny Fisher, 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, Jessica Rowland, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on December 8, 2006


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