Subcommittee Reviews Context and Uncertainty in Climate Change Science

Apr 25, 2013

Washington D.C. – The Subcommittee on Environment today held a hearing to provide Members an overview of the most important scientific, technical and economic factors that should guide climate-related decision-making.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “I believe in the integrity of science.  And challenging accepted beliefs through open debate is a primary part of the scientific process. To make a rational decision on climate change, we need to examine the relevant scientific issues along with the costs and benefits and better understand the uncertainties that surround both.

“Affordable, reliable energy is key to a healthy economy. American consumers and small and large businesses all depend on reliable and affordable energy.  It is only through sustained economic growth that we will be able to make the investments in research and technology necessary to fully understand and properly deal with problems like climate change. We should take a step back from the claims of impending catastrophe and think critically about what we know and what we don’t know about this issue.”

In his inaugural remarks, President Obama signaled his intention to propose significant, new executive actions and regulatory measures aimed at addressing climate concerns. New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plant facilities and other sources will likely serve as a centerpiece of the President’s climate efforts.  Witnesses today discussed the significant costs of regulatory approaches to limit greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the relatively minor impact such actions would have on the future climate.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Stewart (R-Utah): “The number and complexity of factors influencing climate—from land and oceans to the sun and clouds—make precise long-term temperature predictions an extremely difficult challenge.  Contrary to the predictions of almost all modeling, over the past 16 years there has been a complete absence of global warming.

“When we encounter those who claim to know precisely what our future climate will look like, and then attack any who may disagree with them, we have stepped out of the arena of science and into the arena of politics and ideology.”

Witnesses reasoned that subsidies and regulations are extremely costly and relatively ineffective, particularly if other nations such as China and India do not limit their own emissions.

Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center: “Don’t continue with the old-fashioned, failed policy of the past twenty years.  When green energy isn’t ready, we’re likely to spend vast sums of money on cutting CO2 only marginally.

“This matters because when nations claim to be able to cut CO2, it often simply means that they have exported the CO2 emissions to somewhere else, leaving them feeling better, but obviously with no real environmental benefit.”

The following witnesses testified today:
Dr. Judith Curry, Professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. William Chameides, Dean and Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, President, Copenhagen Consensus Center