American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


Summary of Pre-Kyoto Global Climate Change Hearings(6-5-98)

In the months leading up to the Kyoto negotiations, both the House and Senate held many hearings to study the science and economics of climate change. Summaries of the following hearings are listed below in chronological order:

For more information on climate change policies and hearings held after Kyoto, visit the AGI website <http://www.agiweb.org/legis105.html#climate>.

 Senate Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion
June 19, 1997

On June 19, 1997, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee held a hearing on US global climate change policy. Subcommittee Chair Chuck Hagel (R-NE) opened the hearing emphasizing that the debate is not about who is for or against the environment, rather it is about truth and facts. He stated that we need to know the issues involved as well as the solutions and their costs. Most importantly, he said, the solutions should not affect global competitiveness or challenge US sovereignty. Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) echoed Sen. Hagel's concerns adding that economic growth and environmental protection do not need to be mutually exclusive.

Panel I
The Panel I participants were Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). Sen. Byrd said that he knows that the climate is changing and that something must be done to address the global climate change problem. However, he expressed concern that the Kyoto protocol could have serious effects on the US economy and industry without properly addressing the problem. For that reason, he introduced
Senate Resolution 98, which calls for no US participation in a treaty that does not include mandated emissions limits for developing nations. Using various charts, he showed that, unless developing nations are also forced to comply, the net output of greenhouse gases will stay the same or rise even if Annex I nations follow a mandated emissions limit. Sen. Byrd also argued that China should be classified as an Annex I nation due to its industrial growth and development. He said that unless China is held to the same standards as developed countries, it will surpass the US in metric tons of carbon emissions by 2015. Sen. Byrd said that he finds China's "steadfast refusal" to submit to binding limits disturbing and that if they do not follow such limits, they will take industries away from those countries that are complying with emissions limits. Sen. Byrd emphasized that the US needs to accelerate development of new technologies and public-private partnerships to assess the global warming. He wrapped up his testimony by declaring that there must be a strong consensus between the President and Congress and that responsibility for global warming must be spread evenly across the globe.

Rep. Dingell agreed with Sen. Byrd that global climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed. He said, however, the US should not bear the majority of the burden and that the goals of the Kyoto protocol should be based on sound science. Rep. Dingell expressed concerns about the current quality of science: that scientists are not sure how big the problem is and they do not know how fast it is growing. He also stated that the US and other developed countries should not be bearing heavy burdens while developing countries are faced only with voluntary agreements. According to Dingell, these mandates would be detrimental to the US economy, although no one is sure of the degree of harm since no basic information has been gathered on how the mandates would affect the US economy. He concluded his statement by saying that he has no assurance from the administration that they will not sign a commitment that unfairly burdens the US.

Panel II
State Department Undersecretary of Global Affairs Timothy Wirth was the sole witness in Panel II. In his testimony, Undersecretary Wirth said that State Department policies are based on sound, peer-reviewed science and he emphasized that, even though there are still many uncertainties regarding climate change, scientists do know that humans are having a significant effect on the environment. Mr. Wirth described the three goals set forth by a January State Department proposal: legally binding targets for developed countries, market mechanisms and other flexible means to reach emissions goals, and encouragement for developing countries to contribute to the solution. The State Department has been performing extensive economic modeling related to their long term goal: to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at acceptable levels. Mr. Wirth also said that he agrees with the thrust of opinions regarding the developing world's participation, but that the US must take a leadership role in addressing global climate change.

During a tense questioning period, Sen. Hagel and Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) focused on the reasoning for imposing mandatory emissions limits on Annex I countries but not developing countries. Voluntary emissions limits, or non-binding aims, were agreed to by the US at the Earth Summit at Rio in 1992; however, the US has missed these goals by about ten percent due to faster economic growth than anticipated. Mandatory limits, Mr. Wirth concluded, are the only real option at this point. He said that joint implementation of global warming prevention strategies would provide an incentive for countries to share technologies. Compulsory emissions limits are essential to set up this type of system because they send a signal to developing countries that combating global warming is a priority for the US. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) asked Undersecretary Wirth about many of the scientific facts concerning global warming. According to Mr. Wirth, models suggest that we will experience a minimum sea level rise of one foot, which would cause flooding of wetlands and dislocations around areas such as the Mississippi River and San Francisco Bay area. Sen. Kerry also questioned Mr. Wirth on one of the newest areas in global climate change research: ocean absorption of C02 and Gulf Stream current changes.

Panel III
The Panel III witnesses were Mr. Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Mr. Kevin Fay of the International Climate Change Partnership, and Mr. Bryce Neidig, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation. Mr. Trumka testified that if developing countries have no emissions limits mandated, they will "soon be responsible for well over half the planet's greenhouse gas emissions." According to Mr. Trumka, "with no emissions reductions to meet, these countries will attract foreign businesses like a magnet." He expressed concern that all of the policies currently under consideration would cause a sharp rise in energy prices and thus cause "significant economic dislocation." Mr. Neidig's testimony focused on the effects of global warming and the Kyoto protocol on agriculture. He expressed a concern that agriculture is being unfairly blamed for contributing to global warming, especially in the areas of methane and NOx emissions. Mr. Fay testified that there needs to be more scientific and economic data gathered and analyzed before any international agreements are signed. He emphasized that the US needs to take a "prudent, long-term approach" to the problem.

Sen. Sarbanes asked each of the panelists if they thought global warming is a problem. Mr. Fay and Mr. Trumka agreed that it is a problem, but both said that it needs to be addressed over a long term timetable. Other questions for the panel focused on the economic effects of regulations that would be implemented to meet compulsory emissions limits. According to Mr. Neidig, if gas prices increase even slightly, many farming operations will have to cut back considerably or even shut down. Finally, Mr. Fay cautioned against reaching an agreement that is not economically sound and does not protect the US economy.

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
July 10, 1997

A panel of four scientists and one economist testified, debated, and answered questions on the scientific uncertainties of global climate change and the economic effects of a US climate change policy. The witnesses were:

Committee Chairman John Chafee (R-RI) opened the hearing by describing the current scientific and political climate surrounding the global climate change issue. He acknowledged that the science will continue to evolve but questioned whether the US is ready to adopt a climate change policy. Each of the other senators present made their position clear, with views being basically split along party lines. Sen. Tim Hutchison (R-AR) expressed concern about the effects of a US policy on rice production in his state of Arkansas, considering that some studies show rice production as contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) cited his state's mandate on CO2 standards as an example of a way to curb greenhouse gases without an "economic meltdown." To read each committee member's opening statement, visit the Environment and Public Works website.

Each of the four scientists described their interpretation of climate change data, sometimes adding to the committee members' confusion. Dr. Barron testified that "there is no doubt that humans are altering the environment - both in terms of the land surface and the composition of the atmosphere." He admitted that there are uncertainties in climate change science, but described two elements that the US can use to address the uncertainties: "(1) a strong observation and modeling research program within the U.S. designed to enhance economic vitality and national security, and (2) a litmus test for decision makers based on the level of risk and vulnerability to natural variability as well as future climate change."

In his highly technical testimony, Dr. Christy used overheads to explain a study that he and a colleague undertook in 1989 to test the ability of satellites to measure atmospheric temperatures. From the data gathered using this "Spencer-Christy method," Dr. Christy has determined that much more study must be done before the US adopts a climate change policy. According to Dr. Christy, the global climate is a patient and "before prescribing any powerful medicine ... the patient should be given a complete physical as soon as possible, so we may then make the proper diagnosis and chart a correct course of action for the benefit of all."

According to Dr. Lindzen, the global climate change studies are targeting the wrong greenhouse gases. Because of the process of evaporation and convection, the main greenhouse gas, according to Dr. Lindzen, is water vapor. He testified that there is a general scientific consensus that CO2 gases should have some impact on the atmosphere; however, scientists cannot agree on the extent of the impact. Dr. Lindzen testified that, regardless of the impact of C02 on the atmosphere, "it is important to note that emission caps proposed for Kyoto, as difficult and expensive as they may prove, will not prevent global warming if the climate should prove sensitive [to emissions]."

Dr. Schneider testified that, although there are uncertainties in the science, market-based policies can enact controls on greenhouse gases without destroying the economy. He cautioned the committee to discern between the levels of knowledge concerning global climate change. Dr. Schneider emphasized that, even though many uncertainties exist, there are many parts of the science that researchers are sure about. He said that most scientists can "assign a subjective range of probability to climate change effects" and therefore the US should adopt "some mix of emissions 'cap and trade', carbon taxes with revenue recycling, or technology development incentives [that] can provide 'win-win' solutions if all parties to the environment-development debate would lower the intensity of their ideological preconceptions and work together for cost-effective and equitable measures to protect the global commons."

Dr. Jorgensen testified that the US can adopt a climate change policy that will not harm the economy if the climate change agreement is based on three elements: (1) an appropriate target that would slow emissions, not cap them; (2) an international implementation plan that brings in all parties; and (3) a domestic implementation plan that reduces the growth in emissions while balancing costs and benefits. According to Dr. Jorgensen, "the optimal [US] policy ... involves a modest reduction in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions." His proposal would use a carbon tax to achieve that goal.

Questions from the committee focused on the uncertainties surrounding the scientific data of global climate change. Dr. Lindzen and Dr. Christy emphasized the presence of uncertainties and argued that there should be more research on the issue before any policies are adopted. Dr. Jorgensen admitted that there are uncertainties in the science and the economics, but that the "uncertainties argue for action, not inaction." He also said that the US needs to take "modest but nonetheless substantial measures." Sen. John Warner (R-VA) asked if there are any benefits to having only developed countries subject to binding emissions. Dr. Schneider replied that this is an "efficiency versus equity argument": ideally all countries would be held to binding emissions, but someone must take the first step and that should be the richer nations. Dr. Jorgensen ended the hearing by describing three concrete steps that the US should take to bring about a reduction in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions: (1) eliminate $14 billion in subsidies to the energy industry; (2) implement a $5 per ton coal tax; (3) convince China to increase their energy prices to world levels, which would then decrease energy consumption in that country.

House Subcommittee on Energy and Power
July 15, 1997

Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth and Dr. Janet Yellen, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, testified before the House Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee on "The Economic Impact of the Proposed International Global Climate Change Agreement." Subcommittee Chairman Dan Schaefer (R-CO) opened the hearing by referencing the draft economic analysis that Congress received from the Administration that morning, saying that he agrees with the Administration on many of the principles but that they have yet to propose a range of options that will not send American jobs overseas. Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA) agreed with Schaefer, saying that "critical elements are left blank" in the analysis. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) said that, despite the uncertainties, "the risk of not acting at this time is too great."

Dr. Yellen testified that the uncertainties of global climate change make it "orders of magnitude more difficult to gauge the effects on the economy" than with an issue like the balanced budget agreement. She emphasized that "if anybody tells you that he or she has the definitive answer as to the costs and benefits of particular climate change policies, [she] would suggest that [Congress] raise [their] collective eyebrows." The Clinton Administration's draft economic analysis used an emissions scenario of stabilizing emissions at 1990 levels by 2010. Dr. Yellen stressed that this target is not Administration policy but was picked so that the analysis could be compared to other analyses in the economic literature. One general conclusion drawn from the preliminary analysis is that "the greater the substitution possibilities and the faster the economy can adapt, the lower the costs." The analysis supports the use of market-based mechanisms, such as emissions permits trading, and no-regrets policies, where an increase in revenues from the sale of permits might be used to offset distortionary taxes or reduce the deficit.

In his testimony, Mr. Wirth focused on two elements of the global climate change policy debate: how actions taken under the Climate Convention correspond to a specific environmental objective and the need for developing nations to recognize their role in meeting that objective. He said that the issue is not whether developing countries need to accept quantified commitments because they must accept them to address the problem; rather, the issue is when the commitments begin, how they are implemented and to whom they are applied. The purpose of the Kyoto agreement, according to Mr. Wirth, is to provide developing nations with "the tools they will need to achieve significant, binding greenhouse gas limitation and reduction commitments." Among these tools are greenhouse gas emissions budgets and permits trading along with joint implementation.

Questions from the Subcommittee focused on the role of developing nations in the Kyoto agreement and the costs of the US accepting binding emissions limits. Rep. Dingell (D-MI) persistently questioned Mr. Wirth on China's requirements under a Kyoto agreement, stressing the idea that China may not be held to any emissions limits. Mr. Wirth said that the US will propose a new category of countries labeled Annex B which would be composed of countries who have recently obtained OECD status but are still developing, such as Mexico or Korea. These Annex B countries would be held to higher standards than non-Annex I countries, and would be gradually phased in to the higher Annex I standards. Representative Dingell and Schaefer questioned Mr. Wirth on the penalties that would result from a country not meeting a binding limit. According to Mr. Wirth, no country would be held to sanctions under the Kyoto protocol, there is only a reporting requirement when a country does not meet their specified limit. Upon hearing this information, several Subcommittee members questioned the significance of binding emissions without sanctions. Mr. Wirth replied that, even without sanctions, these binding aims would do more to reduce or stabilize greenhouse gas emissions than the non-binding aims that were previously set. In response to Subcommittee members' concerns about the economic effects of a Kyoto agreement, Dr. Yellen described the "market-friendly" policies that can be used to achieve cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases: emissions permits trading and joint implementation.

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
July 17, 1997

Committee Chairman John Chafee (R-RI) opened the July 17 hearing asking two questions: "Has science provided us with enough information on climate change to warrant action?" and "Are no-regrets policies for global climate change possible?" Ranking Member Max Baucus (D-MT) said that science has presented "solid evidence and a thoughtful argument" that global climate change is a "potentially serious, if not absolutely certain, outcome." To read these and other opening statements for the hearing, visit the committee's website.

Witnesses in the first panel were Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth and White House Council of Economic Advisors Chair Dr. Janet Yellen. Each of their testimonies echoed testimony they presented in the House Commerce Committee hearing two days earlier. Dr. Yellen once again emphasized the need for US action despite the uncertainties of global climate change and the need to rely on market-based mechanisms to meet binding emissions limits. Mr. Wirth testified again that developing nations need to be brought into the Kyoto agreement slowly and that the US and other developed nations need to take a leading role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sen. Chafee opened questions by asking Mr. Wirth how the Administration plans to reach an agreement with developing countries and adopt a US position before December. Chafee once again emphasized the concept of Annex B status as a way to phase in developing countries. After Mr. Wirth emphasized that the State Department supports the basic principles in the Byrd and Chafee Resolutions, Sen. Inhofe questioned him on the requirements of the Byrd resolution. In an adversarial exchange between the two, Sen. Inhofe and Mr. Wirth debated the language of the resolution, with Inhofe saying that developing nations are to be held to the same emissions limits in the same time frame as developed, or Annex I, countries. Mr. Wirth disagreed, saying that developing countries are to be held to the same time frame, but that the emissions requirements can be different.

The second panel was composed of business interests represented by Kevin Fay, Executive Director of the International Climate Change Partnership (ICCP), and William O'Keefe, Chairman of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). Mr. Fay testified that although climate change is an important issue, "it is a very long-term issue and extraordinarily complex in both its underlying science and its entanglement with the very foundations of the global economic structure." He argued that the US should not rush to sign an agreement in Kyoto by December because the date is an "artificial deadline" set by the Berlin mandate. Finally, Mr. Fay said that any climate treaty "needs to be durable for the next 100 years" and so it should focus on all of the key issues surrounding the climate change debate.

According to Mr. O'Keefe, "precipitous action on climate change serves as an anti-industry agenda." Citing events like the 1977 saccharin scare and the Alar scare, Mr. O'Keefe testified that labeling global climate change as a crisis will lead to "ill-advised policies." He went on to say that global climate change is used to advance a variety of agendas from energy efficiency to population control and that "unwavering allegiance to such agendas may explain why advocates of precipitous action deny with vehemence the logical implications of obvious scientific uncertainties." Mr. O'Keefe also testified that exempting developing countries from the protocol will allow them to create "powerful incentives" to attract industries and jobs and that curbs on greenhouse gas emissions would be "brutally expensive in terms of lost income, lost jobs, and lost US competitiveness on world markets." He concluded with the statement that the GCC agrees with the Clinton Administration that there is a need for action on global climate change but the organization disagrees on the time frame and the amount of scientific uncertainty.

House Committee on International Relations
July 24, 1997

On July 24, 1997, the House Committee on International Relations held a hearing on global climate change and "global climate negotiations." Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY) began by stating that global climate change and any treaty attempting to address it will affect the daily lives of all Americans. He stressed the need for comprehensive action, and noted that any agreement exempting the developing world would constitute a "band aid that doesn't even cover the wound." Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) added that mandatory targets and timetables for emissions reduction will be required. "It is naive for us to think that China [and other developing nations] will meet voluntary obligations..."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) identified himself as "the skunk at the lawn party" before offering his opinion that global climate change is "at best unproven scientifically and at worst liberal claptrap." Rohrabacher added that any international treaty signing will "cost the American people billions of dollars and lower our standard of living." Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) also offered opening remarks, stating that he hopes "we don't turn Kyoto into a bash-the-rest-of-the-world kind of conference." He concluded the opening remarks with the position that the U.S. "needs to lead the world" in bringing about emissions reduction.

Panel I
The Panel I participants were Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth and Mr. David Hales, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Global Center for Environment, Agency for International Development. Mr. Wirth restated President Clinton's view that "the science [corroborating global change] is clear and compelling," and went on to discuss the "division of responsibility between developed and developing countries." Wirth noted that in order to spur developing nations to act, "we must lead the way and we must act soon." Wirth identified the Administration's policy as one of "evolution." "No one should be exempt. We go first and others phase in over time." Wirth emphasized that the issue is not whether developing nations will take on agreements; they must in order to effect any change. Rather, it is a question of "timeframe and process." Mr. Hales noted that "the leadership role of the U.S. is a critical determinant of success." He spoke of the greenhouse gas mitigation programs implemented by the Agency for International Development (AID) in Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, and India, noting that these countries are making some progress. Hales concluded his testimony by outlining AID's five-year action plan which involves: building on ongoing efforts, actively engaging the private sector, collaborating with international financial institutions, and engaging other organizations and institutions with the same goals.

Questioning from Committee members focused on the economic impacts of an international treaty and the studies and models that have been generated to examine those effects. Undersecretary Wirth stated that there are "a whole series of economic models available" and recommended the World Resources Institute (WRI) study in particular. He warned of the limitations of modeling in general and added that "if it's done right, the policy can have a positive effect for both the economy and the environment." To further explain the Administration's "evolution" policy, Wirth suggested a rowing analogy. "We're all in the same boat together and no one should be excused from responsibility." However, the U.S. will "start with a bigger oar, the developing world with smaller oars." Wirth expects developing and developed nations to reach the same commitment level by 2030 or 2040. In response to Chairman Gilman's questions regarding current U.S. policy, Wirth stated that the U.S. has not yet defined her own position on targets and timetables but will go to Kyoto with specific recommendations. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen asked Mr. Wirth if the Administration plans to implement the treaty through regulation and executive orders because of its "poor prospects for ratification." After first stating his disagreement with her assumption, Wirth responded that the treaty will require both Congressional approval and implementing legislation. In response to Rep. Bill Luther's (D-MN) questions about fairness to developing nations and their current attitudes, Mr. Hales listed the four primary concerns of AID: on principle, developing nations should not be forced into anything by the developed world; we must take into account the vast differences in living standards between developing and developed nations; those who have contributed the most to emissions increases and have reaped the economic benefits should take the lead; and the fear that binding obligations which kick in too early will stunt the economic growth of developing nations.

Panel II
The Panel II participants included: Mr. Dean Kleckner , President of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Mr. Jerry Jasinowski , President of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Mr. David Smith, Director of Public Policy for the AFL-CIO. All of the panelists stressed the need for further scientific and economic study before the U.S. "rushes into" any treaty signing which might have significant economic impacts. Mr. Kleckner stated his concern that farm interests are not being considered in the treaty negotiations. Kleckner stated that the scientific evidence is not decisive and referred to the treaty as an opportunity to resurrect the BTU tax, or "a back-door BTU tax." Thus, in the view of the American Farm Bureau, the "proposal makes no sense from an environmental or an economic standpoint." Kleckner concluded by stating that the Bureau supports three things: the Administration should be skeptical about and withdraw their support for emissions caps pending additional research and information, a full and public debate is necessary, and the final schedule should be delayed to allow for more analysis and public debate. Mr. Jasinowski referred to the December treaty schedule as "the poorest thought out public policy initiative [he has] seen in twenty years." He commented that "there are too many caveats and qualifications in the science" and too many unanswered questions for us to formally approve a treaty by December. Mr. Smith echoed the sentiments of his co-panelists, stating that "the AFL-CIO opposes a treaty we rush into where a lot of the work hasn't been done." Smith offered the recommendations of the AFL-CIO, including: the need for an inclusive treaty (binding all nations) to accomplish environmental objectives, the need for a full understanding of the domestic economic consequences of a treaty signing, and the need to avoid creating a situation "where it is economically rational to export jobs and pollution."

In response to Committee inquiries about his economic information, Mr. Jasinowski referred to an economic impacts study which predicts that emissions standards binding only developed nations will cause the aluminum, coal, and petroleum industries to shift abroad. Under intense questioning, Jasinowski acknowledged that the "scientific evidence is suggestive of a problem," though he added that he would not call it "compelling." Rep. Hastings addressed Mr. Kleckner, asking him to "bend a little bit more." Hastings noted that "everybody thinks his side of the story is the right one," adding that an exchange of information might bring us to common views. He stated that Kleckner's insistence on discussing the issues in terms of taxes on farmers creates an "us versus them scenario." In a truly eloquent speech, Hastings stated that he is flexible and that "we all have to be flexible in this debate, recognize the strengths of other points of view, and come to the table with the cleanest of hands we can." Hastings concluded by asking for that flexibility from the panelists, commenting that "Kyoto is not the end-all, be-all."

Panel III
The Panel III participants included: Mr. Dan Becker, Director of the Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Program; Mr. Peter DeBrine, World Wildlife Fund Program Officer; and Mr. Harvey Ruvin, Metropolitan Dade County Clerk and Chair of the Dade County Project for Carbon Dioxide Reduction. Mr. Becker spoke of the effects of environmental change on public health in terms of infectious disease transmission and heat stress, noting that we need "legally binding targets and timetables." Becker stressed the need to act now, borrowing a comment from the World Health Organization: "A wait and see approach would be imprudent at best, nonsensical at worst." Mr. DeBrine spoke of the extinction that global warming will cause and the potential damage to America's National Parks. He asked that the Committee members "take heed of the scientific evidence." Mr. Ruvin outlined the successes they have achieved in Dade County, Florida, and added that "we can achieve reductions without economic horror stories." He categorized the economic scare tactics utilized by some interests as "an insipid, diabolical, disinformation campaign." Ruvin added that "the U.S. needs to fill a void in global leadership. The tremendous cost here is the cost of not taking action."

Chairman Gilman asked each of the panelists to state what they consider as the most important course of action the U.S. can take right now. Mr. Becker commented that we can achieve a great deal by raising CAFE standards to 45 miles per gallon for cars, 35 for light trucks. Mr. DeBrine stressed the need to educate the public about energy efficiency. Mr. Ruvin echoed this sentiment, concluding, "Education will lead us all."

House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
October 7, 1997

Subcommittee chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) began by explaining that the focus of the hearing is to determine "whether the state of the science today is sufficient to back the proposed [Kyoto] treaty or whether more research is necessary." Four scientists testified in an effort to answer that question: Dr. Roy Spencer, Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Dr. Alan Robock, Maryland State Climatologist; Dr. Aristides Patrinos, Associate Director of Energy Research, DOE; and Dr. Ronald Prinn, TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Director, Center for Global Climate Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For the full written testimony of each witness, visit the House Science Committee website

Dr. Spencer testified that water vapor, circulation, and evaporation all play an important role in climate change. Due to the omission of these and other factors, he "contends that the physics contained in current general circulation models (GCM) are still insufficient to have much confidence in their predicted magnitude of global warming." Dr. Robock began his testimony with the assertion that he "agrees with the conclusions of the 1995 IPCC Working Group report that 'the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." He explained that improvements in models, such as the inclusion of the effect of aerosols, have lowered the predicted amount of warming. He stated, however, that "surprises are also possible, including rapid warming once the climate has passed a certain threshold." Dr. Patrinos also spoke about recent improvements to climate models, and joined Dr. Robock is his belief that "research results to date do not contradict any of the conclusions of the IPCC 1995." Dr. Prinn testified that climate could increase gradually or dramatically and we do not know which path we are on. We need to continue research and have the mechanisms to ensure our actions are commensurate with the problem.

House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
October 9, 1997

This hearing was the second in a series addressing the United States' role in the Kyoto negotiations. The earlier hearing analyzed the science, and this hearing focused on economic consequences. Five witnesses testified: Dr. David Montgomery, vice-president Charles Rivers Associates; Mr. Marc Chupka, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, DOE; Dr. Joseph Romm, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE; Mr. Michael Buckner, Research Director, United Mine Workers of America; and Dr. Stephen DeCanio, Professor of Economics at the University of California Santa Barbara. For the full written testimony of each witness, visit the House Science Committee website

Dr. Montgomery began the hearing with his assertion that "haste makes waste." He testified that market-based, not regulatory, mechanisms will allow the transition to reduced fossil fuel consumption to be made in a cost-effective manner. Mr. Chupka summarized the findings from the Argonne Report, a study conducted in June - July 1996 to determine the effect of a hypothetical energy price increase on the competitiveness of six major industries. The results of the study underlined the need for gradual and realistic reductions, international emissions trading, the inclusion of developing countries, and the use of energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies. Dr. Romm shared the results of another study, "Scenarios of U.S. Carbon Reductions: Potential Impacts of Energy Technologies by 2010 and Beyond," that was conducted by five national laboratories. The study found that the most important variables in the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are the existence of "low-carbon energy supply alternatives, low-cost energy efficient technologies, and the rate of technological information." Mr. Buckner testified that "proposed greenhouse gas reduction policies will result in lost jobs, lost economic output, lower wages, higher energy prices and higher trade deficits for America" and cited examples of expected losses. Dr. DeCanio testified that predictions of the impact of greenhouse gas reductions vary, but "the standard of living of the present population would not be harmed (and might be improved) by sensible policies." Questions focused on the implication that the US should switch to nuclear power as its predominant energy source and the importance of energy efficiency. Several members, including Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) commented that they believed the Berlin Mandate is not an appropriate framework and the terms of negation at Kyoto need to be reworked.

House Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Power
November 5, 1997

Many committee members had brief opening statements and submitted full statements for the record. Subcommittee Chairman Dan Schaefer (R-CO) began by questioning the costs and "game plan" for implementation of President Clinton's proposal and announced that he would be attending the Kyoto conference as an observer. Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR) stated that "the United States can and should be an international leader" in mitigating climate change and questioned whether the administration's proposal achieves reductions quickly enough. She spoke of Oregon's law that requires greenhouse gas emissions to be 15% less than 1990 levels by 2010 and contains a provisions for companies to reduce emissions 17% below the current cleanest plant or donate money to a climate fund. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ ) expressed his concern that global warming could cause sea level to rise, which would affect his district on the Jersey Shore. Finally, Commerce Committee Ranking Member John Dingell (D-MI) stated that the President's proposal has virtues, but it also is problematic because it is based on the Berlin Mandate, which does not include developing countries.

Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth was the sole witness at this hearing. He testified that the Bonn meeting was productive and was heavily influenced by the United States' initiative to "undertake realistic and achievable efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." In addition to carbon dioxide reductions, the US plan takes "a comprehensive view with regard to the gases to be included" by promoting reductions in HFCs, PFCs, SF6, and all land use and forest sinks. He compared the US proposal, which is based on science and economics, to the EU proposal, which he believes is purely political. He commented that it is unfair that the US and Japan are being "beaten up" over their less stringent proposals, which actually reach a common level with the EU of overall greenhouse gas reduction (not just carbon dioxide) of 23% below where they would otherwise be in 2010. He testified that "reaching consensus with the other parties has been and will continue to be a difficult task. With only one month until Kyoto, much work needs to be done on many outstanding and difficult issues." Among issues still in dispute are "emissions trading, joint implementation, commitments by developing countries, harmonized policies and budgets, and the treatment of carbon sinks." Regarding costs, he stated that a recently released study by the World Resources Institute confirmed White House Council of Economic Advisors Chair Dr. Janet Yellen's earlier statement that reducing greenhouse gases, if done right, can have little or no negative impact on the economy.

During the question and answer period, Wirth deflected several questions on the costs of implementation, and suggested that the committee hold another hearing and invite the President's economic team to testify. He emphasized that the US would not sign a treaty that does not include a "meaningful commitment" from developing countries, although Rep. Largent noted that what is considered "meaningful" has not yet been determined. Wirth stated that China is closer to signing an agreement than they were a year ago, but negotiations are still continuing.

House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment
November 6, 1997

This hearing was the third held in a month by the subcommittee on the effect of a signing a treaty in Kyoto. Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) opened the hearing by stating that the Administration's proposal "has done nothing to allay the fears of many members of Congress, including this chairman, that the proposed treaty may be a convenient way to carry out an agenda that has consistently been rejected by the American people." He stated that the science is questionable, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and the "United States owes no apologies to anyone for producing one of the world's highest standards of living." Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Roemer (D-IN) took a different approach, and described the Administration's proposal as "moderate, flexible, and achievable." Science Committee Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA) commented that it is in the United States' best interest to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) was the only witness in the first panel. He testified that "the most basic scientific research [and] common sense tells us that our atmosphere has been and continues to be affected by the byproducts of the Industrial Age." As a "progrowth Democrat," he supports the President's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through "a balanced and enforceable global treaty." He believes investment in energy-efficient technologies and binding commitments are critical to the President's plan and therefore must be contained in any treaty adopted in Kyoto. He testified that the plan does not stifle economic growth, and it even "enables growth as we cultivate the health of our planet and our people." To allay fears of a treaty that does not include developing countries, he cited the President's commitment and Senate Resolution 98, which both oppose signing a treaty with such provisions.

Calvert began the question and answer period by showing a graph that illustrates that humans only contribute 3% of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and asked Lieberman to comment on those results. Lieberman responded by stating that a consensus of scientists agree that humans are changing the atmosphere and waiting until we see the consequences may be too late to take effective actions. Even if scientists are wrong, he noted, we will have cleaner air and more energy-efficient practices. Rep. Roemer stated that he agreed completely with Lieberman's testimony and once again raised the concern of inclusion of developing countries, to which Lieberman repeated his assertion that the Senate would not ratify such a treaty.

The second panel had four witnesses:
Mr. Marc Chupka, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, DOE
Mr. Fred Smith, President, Competitive Enterprises Institute
Dr. Robert Watson, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Dr. Patrick Michaels, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Mr. Chupka's testimony described the Administration's plan to address the challenges presented by climate change and noted that the Science Committee is an appropriate place for discussion because "the issue of climate change starts with the evidence developed by the scientific community." He emphasized that the plan is moderate and will not harm the economy. He discussed a nine-part plant to be used prior to 2008:

Mr. Smith stated that global climate change politics assume that humans are changing climate, this change will result in catastrophic events, and a global treaty will affect energy use. He then refuted all three criteria. He emphasized the importance of wealth in addressing extreme events, such as hurricanes and floods, by comparing the loss of life in Florida and Bangladesh after similar storms. He believes we should not attempt to control energy use and therefore make developing countries poorer, but rather allow them to develop the economic base for technological advancement and resilience.

Dr. Watson began his testimony by asserting that humans are changing climate. He used the melting of glaciers and sea level rise as evidence that the planet is warming. He then referred to Chairman Calvert's graph and explained that Calvert was correct that humans only contribute 4% of carbon dioxide, but noted that humans have increased the total amount of carbon dioxide by 30%. Developing countries, he stated, are most affected by climate change and the resulting increase in malaria, change in distribution of food production, and sea level rise. He is not advocating curtailing energy use, but rather using cleaner and more efficient energy. He believes the cost of inaction is much greater than the cost of action, and that we will not be able to mitigate the effects of climate change if we wait until we have "perfect knowledge."

Dr. Michaels referred to studies that indicate that no warming has occurred globally since he first testified on climate change before the Science Committee ten years ago. He cited an IPCC report which admitted that climate is not changing as rapidly as expected and hypothesized that sulfate aerosols are counteracting the warming due to greenhouse gases. Michaels refuted the aerosols argument and testified that the IPCC was wrong in its earlier predictions. He then testified that some warming has occurred, but only in the midlatitudes, where the air masses are coldest, and that all other areas show a constant temperature or slight cooling. He concluded his testimony with a model that showed that if the entire world adopts the Administration's plan, the total "saved" warming is only 0.13 degrees Celsius.

Question and Answer:
A lively discussion occurred, with Michaels and Watson constantly refuting the others' testimony. Calvert's questions focused on the likelihood that specific events, such as malaria outbreaks, heat waves, and glacier melting, were evidence of global warming. Watson responded that no single event is indicative of warming, but these events will occur more often in a warmer society. Michaels and Smith took the position that the impact of these events depends of the resilience of a nation, as influenced by its wealth.

Rep. Coburn addressed most of his questions to Chupka. He asked who were the "overwhelming majority of scientists who support climate change" because he knew of two Nobel Laureates who disagree. Chupka responded that it was the 2500 scientists involved with the IPCC. Chupka also responded to his question of cost of implementation that the economic losses are expected to be approximately $50 billion/year, which is less that 1/2 of 1% GDP. Coburn then asked the effect of zero population growth on climate change. All panelists responded that warming would be much slower with fewer people, but would continue to increase as nations became wealthier and used more energy. Coburn's final question centered on the politicization of science. Michaels responded that many researchers claim climate change is occurring because more money is available from the government for that position. Watson countered that the peer review system, which most scientists who support climate change use, is effective in determining good scientific methods and procedures.

House Committee on International Relations
November 13, 1997
The following summary was excerpted from The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News, Number 138: November 17, 1997

The sole witness was Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy E. Wirth. Wirth also testified at a House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing earlier this month. His testimony and statements by committee members at both hearings were similar.

Committee chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-New York) started the hearing by exclaiming, "I want to state that I am one of the members who shares the growing consensus that man may be making an impact on the environment of our planet. For that reason, I believe that the United States should do our part - as part of a comprehensive international effort - to reduce that impact." Expressing a concern that is framing much of the debate on Capitol Hill, Gilman later stated, "If we bind our own economy with new restrictions without binding our economic competitors, there will be a giant sucking noise' of jobs leaving the U.S. without any cuts in the production of greenhouse gases."

Gilman criticized President Clinton's October 22 climate change speech because it did not call for binding emissions restrictions on developing countries. The congressman faulted the time table for being too slow, saying "I worry that this is not a serious effort." Assessing the entire situation, he cautioned, "I sense a growing gap between the Congress and the President on this issue."

In his opening remarks, Ranking Minority Member Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana) characterized the administration's position as "balanced" and "reasonable," saying "the sky is not falling, but is filling-up with greenhouse gases." Said Hamilton, "the problem is global, the response must be global." He identified as a problem the "selling" of global warming to the world community, adding that Americans have problems with the science of this phenomenon.

Illustrative of Hamilton's observations were the comments of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California). Rohrabacher said "global warming is baloney, absolute baloney," a "stupid idea," and an "unproven theory."

Under Secretary Wirth's prepared testimony responded to congressional concerns on several fronts. Wirth said the Clinton plan outlines "a flexible, market-based and cost-effective approach, backed by a comprehensive domestic program to help meet the ambitious target to return greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels in a budget period between 2008 and 2012." The U.S. would make further reductions in the future. Regarding participation by developing nations, Wirth stated, "While developed countries must lead...key developing nations must meaningfully participate; otherwise, the United States will not assume binding obligations." Gaining such participation, Wirth said, will not be easy: "much work needs to be done on many outstanding and difficult issues."

Responding to questions, Wirth stated that categorization of countries that would and would not be mandated to make reductions was done "hurriedly." In discussions with the leaders of these developing countries, Wirth has told them that while developed countries are the source of greenhouse gases today, developing countries will be a major source in the future. While he "remains optimistic," reports suggest that getting developing countries to agree to reductions will be difficult.

Sources: Energy and Environment Weekly, American Institute of Physics; House Science Committee


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs, and Stephanie Barrett and Jenna Minicucci, AGI Government Affairs Interns
Last updated June 6, 1998

<?include("../agifooter.html")>