The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a full committee hearing entitled, “Review of the President’s Action Plan.” There was the usual amount of political theater and sparring between the Democratic and Republican members. The further apart they were on the topics, the more they referenced each other as “my friend from across the aisle.” In her opening statement, Majority Chairperson Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) qualified climate change as “a catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes.” She reiterated that 81 percent of the country believes “climate change will be a serious problem if nothing is done to reduce it.”
Minority Chair Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) wasted no time in his remarks calling the hearing “long overdue.” He pointed to regulatory actions on the 2014 calendar that “will frustrate our already struggling economy.” He asked for “the facts and figures, not fiction or fantasy.” He detailed his view of the Climate Action Plan as “putting Americans out of work” and increasing “the cost of energy for those who can least afford it.”
And so it went. Boxer put forth that reducing carbon pollution was a “moral issue.” Vitter complained that the plan increased the “federal bureaucracy.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) stressed, “Our grandchildren will be living in the world we leave them.” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) called for utilizing domestic resources and criticized a lack of “EPA transparency.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) spoke up for the interests of the urban poor and their “epidemic” rate of asthma, calling out corporate polluters. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) was adamant the EPA was “on the wrong side of the War on Poverty” and was killing coal. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) proclaimed, “The President is making things up.” On the same day that the New York Times carried the story, “U.N. Says Lag in Confronting Climate Woes Will Be Costly,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) dismissed the veracity of the IPCC report. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) seemed to have dropped in to a different hearing altogether when he expressed the hope that both sides of the aisle could “come together” to deal with “these serious environmental issues.” Daniel M. Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency dove in by clearly observing, “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time.” She pushed the importance of “embracing” the path of “cutting carbon pollution.” She reiterated the key building blocks of the plan:
- Cutting carbon pollution in America
- Preparing the country for the impacts of climate change
- Leading international efforts to combat global climate change
In her wrap up, she specified the connection between “promoting clean energy solutions” and “driving economic growth.”
Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality, and Dan Tangherlini, U.S. General Services Administration outlined how their agencies would be involved in addressing energy efficiency and climate change risk. It was Ashe who got into the weeds about the ramifications of climate change on the country’s “living resources”—wildlife, fish and plants. His presentation covered efforts to recoup from the losses of Hurricane Sandy, restoring the Gulf of Mexico, reducing the threats of wildfire, and dealing with the matter of rising sea levels. The latter resonated with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who was particularly vocal about his state’s diminishing coastline. He argued that job loss for those in Rhode Island, whose livelihoods have been altered by climate change, was equal in importance to job losses for those in the coal and oil industries.
Bill Ritter Jr., former Colorado governor addressed how states can take the lead on “implementing clean energy.” Dr. Andrew E. Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, presented his conclusion that “climate change is a clear and present danger.” He pointed out, “Time is not our friend in this problem. By the time everyone agrees we have a problem, it is too late to do much about it.”
Dr. Daniel A. Lashof from NRDC expressed that he was “saddened” that there are no Republicans on the Senate Climate Task Force. He called on Congress to “not prevent EPA and other agencies from doing their jobs.”
Dr. Judith Curry, Professor and Chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Georgia Institute of Technology, emphasized that she was “increasingly concerned that both the climate change problem and its solution have been vastly oversimplified.” She said in her summary:
“Multiple lines of evidence presented in the IPCC AR5 WG1 report suggest that the case for anthropogenic warming is weaker than the previous assessment AR4 in 2007. Anthropogenic global warming is a proposed theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain.”
Earlier in the proceedings, McCarthy had asserted, “Climate change is a global issue.” It appeared at this hearing, there was no consensus that it was even an American issue.
Credit: U.S. Senate Photo Studio