On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power heard testimony from a scientist and an environmental expert regarding the Obama administration’s Clean Air Act. True to form, some Republicans on the committee used the opportunity to spread misinformation about climate change.
Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Gina McCarthy told committee members why they believe there is urgency for Congress to act on legislation to invest in new energy sources, and reduce carbon emissions that will improve the environment over the next decade.
Moniz stated in his prepared testimony, “The evidence is overwhelming, the science is clear, and the threat from climate change is real and urgent.”
“The threat of a warming planet to our communities, our infrastructure and our way of life is also clear,” he continued. “Rising sea levels and increasingly severe droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and major storms are already costing our economy billions of dollars a year and these impacts are only going to grow more severe. Common sense demands that we take action.”
McCarthy offered her own proof in her opening remarks. “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” she said. “Based on the evidence, more than 97 percent of climate scientists are convinced that human-caused climate change is occurring. If our changing climate goes unchecked, it will have devastating impacts on the United States and the planet.”
Usually eager to call for scientific evidence of climate change, some Republicans decided that this time they were going to teach the expert witnesses a thing or two about the subject.
Representative David McKinley (R-WV) said in the hearing, “Actually we can say over 40 years, there’s been almost no increase in temperature—very slight. In fact, even with increased greenhouse CO2 level emissions, the Arctic ice has actually increased by 60 percent.”
“Also, Antarctica is expanding,” McKinley said. “But more importantly, this report coming out of the United Nations, the IPCC report coming up is saying that most experts believe by 2083…the benefits of climate change will still outweigh the harm.”
The facts McKinley referenced were from a report done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. Yet just this month, Rajendra Pachauri, a leading scientist for the IPCC who worked on this year’s volume of that same report, made a statement that mirrored precisely what Moniz and McCarthy were warning of during the House hearing on Wednesday. Pachauri cautioned that the world is “five minutes before midnight” with regard to climate change, adding “Today we have the knowledge to be able to map out the debits and to understand what we have done to the condition of this planet.”
The report makes no mention of a 60 percent decrease in Arctic ice, or Antarctic expansion — it provides no long trends and admits a lack of accurate measurements. It does state: “Reductions of Arctic sea ice and glaciers, reductions in the duration of river and lake ice in much of the sub-Arctic, and a recent warming of permafrost in nearly all areas for which measurements are available are consistent with the recent changes in Arctic surface air temperatures.” It also notes that “surface air temperatures in the Arctic have warmed at approximately twice the global rate.”
In the Antarctic, the report says, “Direct measurements reveal considerable spatial variability in temperature trends in Antarctica. All meteorological stations on the Antarctic Peninsula show strong and significant warming over the last 50 years.”
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) responded to McKinley’s outrageous assertions. “I think this illustrates why we need a committee where we bring in the scientists. I just thought the statements that the gentleman from West Virginia read to us were incredibly inaccurate and contrary to everything everyone in the scientific community has to say, including Mr. Moniz,” Waxman said. “We need scientists to come in here and talk about science.”
Near the end of the hearing Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) asked Moniz, “Is there really a significant difference of opinion about the science of climate change?”
Moniz answered, “At the level of the broad impacts, in my view there is none.”
Photo: TV19-DD Meighen via Flickr.com