House Dems call for climate science hearings amid GOP efforts to block EPA climate rules

Waxman and Rush said it would be “irresponsible” for Republicans to ignore the new research and move forward in their efforts to permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are writing to ask that the Energy and Commerce Committee hold a hearing to better understand these important scientific developments,” the lawmakers said. “We believe it would be irresponsible for the Committee to ignore the mounting scientific evidence linking strange and dangerous weather to rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.”

House Republicans approved a government-spending bill that would block funding for EPA’s climate rules through the end of September. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Energy and Power subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) are hoping to move legislation through the House that would permanently revoke the agency’s climate authority.

The letter, addressed to Upton and Whitfield, points to two studies showing that climate change contributed to severe rains and flooding.

“The potential implications of these results are illustrated by multiple recent weather disasters,” the lawmakers said. “In the United States, severe flooding in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee killed dozens and caused widespread property damage last year.”

Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the full committee and Rush is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Power subcommittee.


Here is the full text of the letter:

February 24, 2011
 
The Honorable Fred Upton
Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
U.S. House of Representatives
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
 
The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Chairman
Subcommittee on Energy and Power
U.S. House of Representatives
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
 
Dear Chairman Upton and Chairman Whitfield:
 
Last week, as the House was debating whether to strip EPA of its authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists published two major studies linking severe weather events to man-made global warming.  We are writing to ask that the Energy and Commerce Committee hold a hearing to better understand these important scientific developments.  We believe it would be irresponsible for the Committee to ignore the mounting scientific evidence linking strange and dangerous weather to rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.
 
In the first study, scientists from Canada and the United Kingdom examined the increase in severe rainstorms, snowfall, and other weather events in the Northern Hemisphere.  Using detailed computer models, the scientists concluded that these increases are the result of rising greenhouse gas emissions, not natural variability in the atmosphere.  They also found that the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by 7% over the last half of the 20th century. In a companion study, scientists at the University of Oxford examined the severe rains and floods that afflicted England and Wales in 2000.  They found that rising greenhouse gas emissions “substantially increased” the risk of these floods occurring by up to 90%. These peer-reviewed studies were published in Nature, one of the world’s premier scientific journals.
 
The potential implications of these results are illustrated by multiple recent weather disasters.  In the United States, severe flooding in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee killed dozens and caused widespread property damage last year.  Some scientists see evidence that the bitterly cold storms that gripped our nation this winter could be tied to climate changes. Internationally, unprecedented floods in Pakistan last year submerged one-fifth of the country, killing thousands, and devastating livelihoods. Similarly, floods following heavy rains displaced hundreds of thousands of people in northeastern Australia and damaged the agricultural and mining sectors. In Russia, yields of wheat and barley in 2010 fell by 30% following a summer of record-breaking heat and drought. This month, the United Nations warned that the worst drought in decades threatens the wheat crop in China.
 
Two weeks ago, the Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing at which the lead Republican witness, Senator James Inhofe, testified that climate change is a hoax.  At that same hearing, Rep. David McKinley said that man-made global warming is an “issue that the scientists are still debating.” Chairman Fred Upton recently said at a public forum that he does not believe climate change is man-made. When Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer offered an amendment on the floor last week defunding the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on climate change science and the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, he said the IPCC is “engaged in dubious science.”
 
These assertions are reckless and at odds with the overwhelming scientific consensus.  Yet they are the predicate for legislative proposals being passed by the Republican majority on the House floor.  That is why it is imperative that the Committee have an understanding of the science of climate change and the impact carbon pollution may be having on the weather in the United States and abroad.  We cannot legislate wisely if we do not know what we are doing.
 
We therefore request that you convene a hearing to discuss the new studies linking climate change and extreme weather events and invite the principal authors to testify about their findings.
           
Sincerely,
 
Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member

Bobby L. Rush
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Energy and Power