House Climate Hearings: Old Dogs, Old Tricks

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Hearings conducted today by the House Energy and Commerce committee showcased a battle of the scientists as members heard from a panel of both reputable climate researchers as well as some notable climate skeptics. Climate Progress listed the credentials of those who were called upon to weigh in on Committee Chair Fred Upton’s (R-MI) HR 910 – the bill that if passed on Thursday, will not only strip the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases now and in the future, but will also completely obliterate its Supreme-Court-endorsed endangerment finding. Recall back in December of 2009, the EPA officially declared that emissions of greenhouse gases effectively “endanger public health or welfare”, and therefore fall under the Clean Air Act allowing them to potentially be regulated by the EPA.

Yet the hearing made no progress on discussing the EPA’s role on regulation; it only proved that politicians are running on hamster wheels to nowhere. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) repeated the “no consensus amongst scientists” mantra (bet he didn’t read the memo in front of him signed by 2,505 endorsers of EPA’s Clean Air Act responsibilities either) and played the Republican’s favorite hit tune, ClimateGate. Poor Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) lamented lying awake at night worrying about such subjects as sunspots (are we still on sunspots?) and warming on Mars, while Rep. Ed Whitefield (R-KY) robotically reiterated “we don’t know the answer [as to why the planet is warming]” (no, really we do!). Over several hours, there was also the usual IPCC-bashing, debating the costs of inaction versus action, blaming land-use change corrupting temperature records, cautioning jobs at stake, warning of crushing developing-world economies, and seemingly every other denier excuse in the book (even DDT!). If this were a drinking game, players would likely be en route to get their stomach pumped after three hours of broken record climate denier logic.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), attempted to put things into perspective:

“If my doctor told me I had cancer, I wouldn’t scour the country to find someone to tell me that I don’t need to worry about it. Most of us don’t substitute our own judgment for that of experts when it comes to medicine, nuclear engineering, building bridges or designing computer security.”

While some might see the merit in actually including scientists in a hearing on climate change (unlike the last hearing), the time-old practice of putting climate deniers next to credible scientists and giving them equal time is further fueling the belief that there is no consensus. Put all the climate scientists in one room and you’ll see that the only ones denying it still were the three skeptics in the hearing today and a bunch of hacks even the GOP knew better than to call to testify.

“On one side you have over 95 percent of respected scientists and scientific organizations, worldwide…all in agreement that man-made greenhouse gases do contribute to climate change and that these impacts can be mitigated, through policy, to curb these emissions,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) in his opening statement. “On the other side you have a very small group, less than 5% of the scientific community, who range from straight-out climate change deniers to those who would dispute the certainty of the claims that human behavior is contributing to climate change.”

And Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) likened giving equal time to deniers and scientists as “like a divorce trial – he said, she said,” and “a concerted war on science.”

The unfortunate fact is that these arguments will always fall on deaf ears if Republicans keep proclaiming that protecting the planet from runaway climate change will “threaten to drive gas prices even higher, increase utility rates, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and hamstring our economic recovery.”

In fact, gas prices will continue to rise moreso because of peak oil, jobs will float overseas because of our refusal to invest properly in clean energy, and our economic recovery will suffer because we increasingly give breaks to fossil fuel industries that receive copious amounts of subsidies, evade taxes, and ruin our environment while threatening our health.

Also, it may be less confusing if they had scientists answering questions about science and economists answering questions referring to economics. But after all, this is Congress we’re talking about. Anything goes.

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