Democrats Roll Out Climate Change Big Guns, Republicans Remain Immune
Climate hearing appears to fail to sway Republicans before Thursday's vote on curbing Obama's green ambitions
Democrats have attempted to get Republicans to confront the science on climate change, in an effort to halt moves to block regulation of greenhouse gas pollution. But it's not clear that the appeal to reason worked.
In an increasingly contentious hearing, Republicans insisted that science on climate change was "not settled" or accused world-recognised experts who had been called to testify of holding "elitist and arrogant views".
"They literally just try to make somebody out to be a flat earther if they disagree in a scientific way," complained Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise.
Democrats had pushed for Tuesday's hearings in the hopes that testimony from climate scientists might give Republicans second thoughts in their moves to strip the Obama adminsitration of its powers to act on climate change.
Republicans are set to move as early as Thursday to vote on the bill that would achieve this. It would permanently block the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing greenhouse gas emissions from factories and would block any further reductions of car exhaust emissions after 2016.
Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who wrote the separate 2009 climate bill, called the new bill "breathtakingly irresponsible".
"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," Henry Waxman, told the hearing of the energy and commerce committee.
"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."
Waxman appealed to the Republican leadership of the committee to delay the bill and take a closer look at the science. Ed Whitfield, the Kentucky Republican chairing the hearing, refused. "On this side of the aisle, we feel the EPA is forcing Congress to act quickly," he said.
Tuesday's hearing heard from four recognised climate scientists as well as three well-known climate sceptics.
The scientists came armed with the latest evidence on how climate change was raising the dangers of flooding in Europe and wildfires in the US.
Knute Nadelhoffer, a University of Michigan professor, noted that Lake Superior had already warmed by 4.5F since 1979, and that similar trends were visible in smaller lakes.
Witnesses invited by Republicans tried to compare their cause to that of famous dissenters – such as Galileo – who were eventually proved right.
But that rationale brought ridicule from Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who noted that Einstein had almost immediately been accepted by his peers.
But environmental organisations – and even some Democrats at the hearings on Tuesday – despaired that such a hearing on climate science had to take place at all. Or that it would have any effect on current thinking in the Republican party.
The majority of Republicans in Congress now deny the existence of man-made climate change, or oppose reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.
And even at Tuesday's hearings, Morgan Griffith, a Virginia Republican, insisted his schoolboy textbooks had contained chapters on global cooling. When Somerville testified global cooling was a myth debunked long ago, Griffith said: "I was there."
Jay Inslee, a Washington Democrat, lamented on Tuesday that even if Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein were testifying, Republicans would still not accept the science until Antarctica had melted.
Inslee, who had a three-feet stack of scientific books on his deck, complained: "The media report on science like a divorce trial – he said, she said." Claims from climate deniers – none of which have support in peer-reviewed scientific journals – should not get equal time, he said.